clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Elephant Rumblings: Blackburn details his 2022 success, how his curveball has changed

MLB news roundup

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

MLB: JUN 10 Athletics at Guardians Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s the dang weekend, Athletics Nation!

Paul Blackburn has been the A’s biggest success story so far in 2022. Going from a couple appearances over the last few years, including 9 starts in 2021, to now already surpassing his career numbers in games started and innings pitched over a season. On top of the reliability in the rotation Blackburn is in good company stats-wise, currently sitting 7th in the AL ERA leaderboard above the likes of the Jays’ Kevin Gausman and Boston’s Nathan Eovaldi.

Who better to dig into how well this year has been going than Blackburn himself? Talking with mlb.com’s Molly Burkhardt after Thursday’s win over the Red Sox, Paul discussed his new approach in 2022 focused on making every pitch a quality one rather than aiming for a perfect pitch every time. This approach is paying off as Blackburn has excelled at soft contact with only 6.9% of batted balls getting solid or barreled contact from batters. Same goes for exit velocity, with only pitches in the bottom middle of the zone getting hit for an average higher than 92mph.

One of Blackburn’s key tools for these quality pitches is his curveball, which has had increased usage so far this year rising to almost 20% of his total pitches. In a FanGraphs profile by David Laurila, Blackburn went into detail on his curve grip, and usage methodology. Around the same time as his first MLB appearance, Blackburn changed the curveball grip he’d been using since high school. Previously stacking his middle finger on top of his index finger, Paul now pulls his middle finger back into a knuckleball-style spike at the seam of the ball. He’s attributed his comfortability with this more standard grip to reducing the initial pop up of the pitch that would give away a curve to the batter. Now the ball travels more like his sinker out of his hand, before dropping for an average of 6.7 inches of vertical movement.

Blackburn’s success so far looks to carry him to be the A’s representative in the 2022 All Star Game. If he can stay strong through the rest of the season there’s potential that he could even get included midway up some Cy Young award ballots.

A’s Coverage

MLB News & Interest

Best of Twitter

Foul ball heroics at the Coliseum

The moves run in the family, obviously

Mayor Schaaf on Howard Terminal and tax dollar usage and infrastructure needs

Things are looking good for the June 30th BCDC vote!

Daulton Jefferies on his recovery from thoracic outlet surgery