Sean Doolittle Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Sean Doolittle has a great fastball. That is nearly all he throws. And it works. Now imagine a guy that throws mid-90s adding more pitches to his already effective arsenal. He becomes lethal.
According to PitchFX, Doolittle threw a 4-seam fastball nearly 90% of the time in 2013. Nearly 57% of the time, a batter swings at his fastball. The batter only swings and misses 11.8% of the time. This means he isn’t blowing it by people, but they also can’t do much with his fastball, as evidenced by his career 3.09 ERA.
SF Gate is reporting that Doolittle has added both a changeup and a a slider to his bag of tricks. If he can make these two pitches effective, then his ERA will dip, and his current K/9 of 9.3 will skyrocket. Pitching is all about keeping a hitter guessing. With just a 4-seam fastball, they know what’s coming. If a batter has to worry about a changeup however, that will really ruin a hitter’s day. An effective changeup will be around 10 MPH slower than a fastball. This ruins a hitter’s timing if he is expecting mid-90s heat and gets something around 84 MPH. Our friends at BleacherReport did a great, detailed piece on this difference of speed, Here is the link to the article.
The key for each of these pitches will be control. If a pitcher leaves anything slower up in the zone, it will usually get crushed over the fence. Barry Zito, a finese pitcher, struggled the most when he couldn’t get pitches down in the zone. Big League players hit mistakes. That’s how they make their money. Well, most. Doolittle could roll the ball to the plate and Josh Hamilton would still swing.
Undoubtedly, Doolittle will be working on these two pitches over the course of Spring Training, so if his numbers are a little up, don’t sweat it. He is just trying to get the hang of how to make them work for him. If they don’t work, he still has a fastball that is doing just fine by itself. If they do work, he could drop a whole run off of his ERA. This A’s bullpen is already stacked. Sean Doolittle is making sure he does his part to take the A’s to the promised land in 2014.