Sarris: On Brandon McCarthy, bulking up, and a new repertoire

From SABR member Eno Sarris at FanGraphs on April 17, 2014:

When we last talked to Brandon McCarthy, he was looking for a change-up. He didn’t find it. But he did find what he hopes will be the key to a successful — and full — season this year: Bulk.

 After an offseason that included some work on the change, the pitch was still one McCarthy “could get beat on,” he told me last week. It’s still something he’d like to include if can figure out “a way to unlock it.” But it’s hard to work on that sort of thing during the regular season, which means he doesn’t anticipate this year will be the year.

Could he throw the sinker, which has arm-side run, at different speeds, to replicate a change-up? After says Trevor Cahill can do that sort of thing, McCarthy thought it was too tough for him to manage because of the modulation of his arm speed. “Kids in rookie ball struggle” with maintaining arm speed, McCarthy said, “but you just train them out of it.” You can tell those pitchers to throw a change in every 1-1 count, or fine them if they don’t throw enough of them. In the bigs, when all you’ve got are side sessions and bullpens, “you’ve got to work on what you’re good at, not some side project.”

For now, the curve will be his change-of-pace. It’s almost a round-house curve, after all, and those have smaller platoon splits. And consider this: Since 2012, McCarthy has gotten a higher whiff rates (10% versus 8%) and ground-ball rates (60% versus 45%) from his curve when he’s used it against lefties (according The pitch also has a higher foul rate from lefties, which doesn’t surprise McCarthy. “Typically, you’re trying to back-foot it, bounce it right there so that he pulls it.”


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Originally published: April 17, 2014. Last Updated: April 17, 2014.