Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Our first order of business on Monday morning was to find out if Jacob deGrom is tipping pitches. In each of his past two starts, opposing hitters have looked oddly comfortable -- and since deGrom is the best pitcher in baseball, this activates our natural curiosity.
On the national telecast during Sunday night's loss in Atlanta, analyst Alex Rodriguez appeared to be hinting that deGrom was tipping, when he said after Josh Donaldson's fifth inning home run that it was "Almost like he knew what was coming -- 109 (exit) velocity on 2-2 fastball in is way too good off a guy like deGrom."
Checking with several veteran evaluators Monday, none saw any signs of tipping -- although one noted that A-Rod, along with Carlos Beltran, Adrian Beltre, Alex Cora and Shawn Green, was among the best in his generation at spotting it. It's possible that he noticed something that escaped other scouts, and even the Braves.
But that aside, tipping doesn't appear to be the issue.
"I didn't see or hear anything," said one veteran evaluator who was at Sunday's game. "I sat with the scouts. He pitched pretty well."
No one in the scouts section appeared to notice anything that telegraphed pitches. And this comment was consistent with the opinions of three other evaluators who watched on TV.
So what was the problem, other than deGrom simply being human?
Further digging revealed the following issue, which three separate sources agreed on: Speed variance. DeGrom, armed with a slider/cutter that is now touching mid-90s, is actually throwing his offspeed with too much velocity.
Here's how a longtime evaluator explains it: "If you play at a 5-6 mph range [between fastball and offspeed] all the time, hitters will foul off good pitches and handle mistakes hard. There needs to be a variance of one pitch and possibly two that give you 9-12 mph variance. Now you can throttle the hitter's bat."
Now get this: deGrom's first pitch on Sunday night below 90 mph was an 86 mph curveball to Ronald Acuna Jr. in the fifth inning.
To put it another way: That power slider that deGrom unveiled earlier this month, and that we were all gushing over? It's not doing him any favors, because it's too close in velocity to his fastball. Hitters are more comfortable knowing that everything is coming in low-to-high 90s, and they can gear up for it.
Hey, at least he's not tipping. This should be a relatively easy fix.