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Elephant Rumblings: What’s the situation? — checking the A’s starters’ pitch mixes

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Oakland Athletics v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

It’s the dang weekend, Athletics Nation!

One of the bright spots for the A’s this season has been the rotation. Frankie Montas and Cole Irvin are living up to their previous performances, and they’ve gotten strong showings from other arms like Paul Blackburn and Zach Logue. Most starters have appeared in enough games this season that we can start to take a look at their tendencies.

Using Baseball Savant’s Pitcher Plinko tool we can use Statcast data to filter a pitcher’s tendencies in different counts. The tool also gives a rundown of pitch types used to achieve at-bat results. From there you can start to balance pitch usage in different scenarios and figure out pitcher’s preferences. Here’s a quick look at the current rotation plus IL-resident Irvin:


The cutter is still new for Montas, generally used early in counts along with his slider. If Frankie is ahead in the count then he’s almost assuredly using fastballs. A real nice note is the fact that he hasn’t gotten into enough 3-0 counts to draw any meaningful conclusions from that outcome.


You got a ball from Paul? You’ll be seeing a sinker or a change. But, if he has strikes he’ll lean on curves and sliders. Cutters are barely used past the first pitch by Blackburn, and even then rarely in 1-0 and 0-1 counts.


Cole relies on the sinker when behind in the count, and he pushes with the four-seamer on two strike counts. Generally he’ll save the curve for when he’s ahead in the count and instead brings out his slider when he’s behind. Pretty standard stuff, but some stark divides in approach.


Less data to go off here with only three appearances, but a note that fielded outs while Logue is pitching are more than double his Ks. Overall a much more even mix, still the standard reluctance to throw a curve when behind in the count, and he has only thrown fastballs when in 3-0 counts.


James Kaprielian is pretty simple: Four-seam when behind, slider when ahead. Of course there’s a fair bit of pitch mixing across at-bats, but his changeup and curve use together don’t even add up to the amount of sliders tossed, making it Kap’s most successful strikeout pitch.


Daulton Jefferies is the least eager to use his curve, generally sticking to his fastball mix whenever he has balls in the count. Even with two strikes, the curve only really shows up when there’s 0-2 or 1-2 counts.

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