What can Jake Odorizzi’s one good start tell us?
Trying to be positive, here folks…
This was originally going to be an article about how Jake Odorizzi needed to make an adjustment. He gave up yet another home run in Tuesday’s loss to the Yankees, and he has now given up 29 home runs on the 2017 season. That’s more than anyone else with as few innings as Odorizzi has pitched this year. The article was going to discuss how the pitcher, who has relied on high fastballs and fly balls for most of his career, was failing to make an adjustment, and it was killing his value to the Rays.
But that’s not helpful, and it’s basically been written about already on this very site by this very author. Instead, let’s take a more positive tack, focusing on the positive.
It’s not as fresh in our minds as Tuesday night’s four inning, five-run (only one earned, Trevor…) affair, but it was just a week ago that Odorizzi held the Twins to one hit and one walk over 6.2 IP — flirting with a no-hitter and delivering an all-important win over AL wild card rivals, Minnesota.
Among Odorizzi’s 25 starts this season, the Rays righty posted an individual-game FIP below 3.00 in only one. That’s really not good, but this is a positive article, so let’s focus on that one game (the one from a week ago) and see what, if anything, we can find.
Before we start, I’ll say this in italics instead of repeating it over and over throughout the analysis.
Obviously we’re comparing a season’s worth of data to one game.
Anything can happen in one game. Literally anything. But that doesn’t mean we can’t look for some cool patterns in Odo’s one strong start, or look at some potential trouble spots for the season as a whole.
If anything, I hope you can find this analysis at least interesting. Moving on.
Let’s start with what Odorizzi actually threw in the game.
According to Brooks Baseball, Odorizzi went to the fastball 44 times (48.9 percent), the cutter 20 times (22.2 percent), the curveball 14 times (15.6 percent), the splitter 11 times (12.2 percent), and the slider once (1.1 percent) in his best start of the season.
So how does that compare to the rest of 2017?
Well that lines up neatly. Odorizzi basically swapped out extra splitters for curveballs and sliders for cutters.
Now, it can be a bit dangerous looking at Brooks Baseball pitch breakdowns in a single-game sample because of the difficulties of pitch recognition still present in our data collecting, but the pattern seems noticeable and Brooks is the best at that difficult task.
It’s interesting to note that while Odo has indeed allowed a lower slugging percentage off curveballs (.381) than splitters (.458) this season, he has allowed far more damage off cutters (.470) than sliders (.233).
So while, swapping out a handful of splitters for curves might be beneficial, that improvement would seem to be negated by the more exaggerated use of the cutter.
Here’s a look at Odorizzi’s average fastball velocity in each start of 2017:
It’s a bit difficult to see because of the high number of games, but Odorizzi’s best start was indeed one of his highest average fastball velocity outings of 2017. It ranked third behind only a pair of May starts.
Clearly having a better fastball velocity is a good thing, and it’s not surprising that Odo’s lowest monthly ERA (outside of his two-start September sample) was in May, the month he had his highest fastball velocity.
In fact, here’s Odo’s monthly velocity:
And his monthly ERA:
Pitch location is a big deal with Odorizzi. It’s his claim to fame that he is the pitcher who attacks hitters with fastballs up in the zone. He does it more than any other pitcher in baseball. Here’s the chart on all pitches from Odo in 2017:
And just four seamers:
Odorizzi attacks high in the zone no matter what, but especially with the fastball. So did he do the same in his best start of 2017?
Here’s his overall zone profile:
And just the fastballs:
Odorizzi was indeed classic Odorizzi in shutting down the Twins, there was no change in approach. He pounded the top of the zone, but he was able to keep the ball in the field of play and had himself a great start.
And that’s why it is so tough to do a one-game analysis.
Odorizzi’s velocity was indeed a bit higher than normal, and he seemed to abandon the splitter for the curve, a move that should theoretically help, but he also continued to attack hitters up in the zone and used his cutter far more than he should have.
There are simply so many factors going on in one, single game. The Twins could have been in a funk that day; the wind could have been blowing in a favorable direction; Odorizzi could have received news before the game that lit a fire in him; and that’s all ignoring that it simply could be a one-game fluke because That’s Baseball.
I would certainly like to see Odorizzi have his full velocity each time out there, I think that’s even more important for a pitcher who attacks up in the zone like Odo. It was also nice to see him use the curve a bit more in each of his last two outings, it’s a pitch he could stand to use more often to throw off the eye level for opposing hitters.
Other than that, he was his normal self, and on that night it worked.
I guess fans just have to hope Trevor Plouffe won’t be playing third base next time Odo takes the mound.
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