JP Sears (27) is in his prime. At 5'11 180lbs he has taken the ball to start a game 29 times - going 157.2 innings. He has 144 strikeouts and 45 walks. Trouble is he also has 31 homeruns to his credit as well.
Since September 1st, we have seen him face two playoff quality lineups - Blue Jays and Houston and truth be told, he has not done half bad. But that kind of is the problem. because that means he is only half good.
All season long he has been talking to his slider/sweeper and it just will not listen. His release point has consistently been way too early leaving the slider right over the heart of the plate. If a hitter is sitting off-speed breaking ball, it will get crushed and it has. His changeup is even worse. Getting blasted for .284 AVG against. Again, his release point is a problem, not so much the "run" of the ball. He releases too early and often has a desire to abandon the pitch when he feels like it.
It is important to note that JP has given up entirely on his curveball even though batters were only hitting .132 against last year. .132 - that is pretty bad (good?). But why? Why give up on such a great 'out' pitch. Again it comes down to release point. His changeup and slider(sweeper?) are released at more or less the same slot (fastball comes in much higher). Meaning that if he is throwing offspeed/breaking major league hitters can see it pretty clearly and it just a matter of 'run' or movement of the pitch to confuse batters.
I do not like the fact that JP went with what is trendy (sweeper) and decided to ditch his curveball. It was effective last season and he needs to bring it back. But again we come down to release point. While it would be near the same for his slider the vertical movement should play well off the change up. His slider, again, has been getting crushed because he cannot bury it in the back foot of RH hitters. His changeup is the same but opposite.
To LH hitters that changeup needs to be down and away or at least down but hitters have been getting under it and driving the mall. He also cannot seem to locate it when he needs to throw a offspeed strike. He has only thrown 4 change ups to LH batters vs 229 SLD/SPR - why? Who knows. He should be trying to get ahead of the count - throw SLD/SPR and then come back to the change up down and in to lefties. But, alas... he throws the changeup in the trash and keeps throwing breaking pitches which leads to more walks.
This might seem strange but I would like to see the '22 JP again. His '22 curveball had a whiff rate of 33% and a K rate of 21.3%. He needs to throw the sweeper in the trash can and bring back the duce. Need evidence? '23 JP is giving up .507 SLG vs .226 with sweeper vs curve (respectfully). His WHIP has improved slightly but stats can be misleading. He has given up the AL's 3rd most homeruns.
Which JP Sears will we see tonight? My guess is, the good kind - but for how long? Nobody knows.
Go get'em JP. It will be his 32nd start of the season.
Note: I like that he has the guts at 1-0 to throw off speed but the trouble is, he does not locate it well. He has an even 1/3 split between fastball/breaking/off speed at 1-0.