The trade for Jeremy Guthrie this offseason was greeted with a crooked eyebrow from Orioles and Rockies supporters alike. When Jason Hammel got off to a great start in Baltimore and Guthrie stumbled out of the gate many Rockies fans quickly soured on the move. While Guthrie has pitched poorly he certainly will end the year with a respectable line and a good number of innings. Of course he will not be anything close to an Ace, but that is not what anyone should be expecting. Guthrie’s early work however does deserve some further scrutiny so we can see just what has been going on so far.
So far in his career Guthrie has thrown fastballs 62% of the time (4 seam 23%, sinker 39%). He has used the slider most frequently among his other pitches (20% of the time), and the changeup 12%, with an occasional curveball mixed in (6%). During his career both of his fastballs have averaged 93.5 MPH.
So far in 2012 though, Guthrie is only throwing his fastball 53% of the time, a very significant change from 62%. He is replacing those fastballs with curveballs and changeups, upping his curveball usage from his career rate of 6% to 15%. Guthrie started throwing the curve more last year, throwing it 9% of the time after only 4% in both 2009 and 2010. In 2009 and 2010 his curveball had very little success, being called a ball47.37% of the time in 2009 and 44.78% of the time in 2010 while resulting in a missed swing only a paltry 2.26% of the time in 2009 and 4.48% in 2010. These are very poor numbers for a pitch. But last year when Guthrie started throwing it more (9% of the time) it was his pitch that resulted in a strike more often than his other 4 pitches, only being called a ball 31.67% of the time, while also increasing the whiff rate on it up to 7.67%. So given this added success with the curveball last year, I can understand why he is throwing it more often, especially while he is adjusting to hitters that he has not seen before.
Watching Guthrie’s 4 starts so far this year, he has also struggled with fastball command, so it could just be that he will get that fastball feel and start feeling more comfortable to attack hitters with fastballs. Here are the locations for Guthrie’s pitches in his first 4 starts below. Fastballs and sinkers are green and blue; obviously it is striking how many of those are not only up and in the middle of the plate, but also missing up out of the zone.
Guthrie’s track record shows that he will throw more fastballs, and he will control it better in the future. Every pitcher has a rough patch or two or three during the season, and Guthrie just happened to choose a terrible time to have his. That being said he has still survived to pitch 24.1 innings in 4 starts; so look for Jeremy to get the fastball command back and have a stretch of steady starts. This trade will look much better in a month or so, rest assured.