(BaseballStL) — Game 2 of the season, while absent the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day, may have more significance for fans of St. Louis due to who’s on the bump for the Birds.
2013 saw Michael Wacha go from promise and expectation to a bonafide big league hurler. He threw in 15 regular season games for the Cardinals, started nine of them and won 3 of those starts. He closed the season with an 8.2-inning no-hitter bid that was broken up when Ryan Zimmerman beat out a weak grounder to short in a last gasp for the Nationals.
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In October he won four straight starts, beating three different teams before losing Game 6 of the World Series. He was everything promised by beat writers and barroom analysts alike, and enters 2014 expected to carry an elite season at the age of 22. One of the biggest challenges the former Aggie will face is getting through an entire season while having essentially two pitches.
His fastball was certainly big-league ready and his change up, bolstered by the fact that his release point is a carbon copy of the previous pitch, is a deadly counter. From there, his arsenal dries quickly. He has a breaking pitch that, while being developed steadily, was just a show curve last season. He also has a cutter that he threw 1.8 percent of the time. (All stats courtesy of Brooks Baseball)
Granted these are all very small sample sizes, but if Cincinnati is scouting Michael Wacha, it’s what they have to go on.
He throws his fastball about 64.2 percent of the time and his change the other 26.7 percent of the time. Righties saw a first pitch fastball 81 percent of the time while lefties saw a fastball nearly 70 percent of first pitches. He didn’t often start righties with a change, leading off at bats only 4 percent of the time with it. To southpaws, he started with a change 20 percent of the time.
All of this is subject to variance as this season starts, but it does tell opposing hitters that he likes to establish his fastball first, and lefties will see more of his change (about 15 percent more).
However, when there are two strikes, it’s a toss up whether you’ll see a change or a fastball. He splits his out pitches nearly down the middle to both types of batters, which is the key to his effectiveness. Being 6’6” and having no discernible tell when the change up is on it’s way makes Wacha a difficulty to hitters in the short term. However, over the course of a season he will need a third pitch. He may never develop the curve that has made Adam Wainwright so successful, but he will need one that can keep a hitter off balance. Hitting at the MLB level is about recognizing tendencies and making educated guesses. It’s a lot harder to do both if their are three options instead of two.
The first (and only) time Wacha faced the Reds was a perfect example. He threw 49 fastballs, 21 change ups and 10 of everything else. It was right on the numbers for September and one percentage off for October. It was his recipe for success last year. Now, we see if his recipe holds up over 25-30 starts,and if he has any new spices to throw in.