Ryan Feierabend pitched one of his best games at the AAA level in yesterday's opening day game. 6IP, 0R, 4H, 3BB and 7Ks. Where'd this come from?
Well, it's not from any new pitches. He was his normal three-pitch self last night, with his FB just the same as it was last year - from 85 to touching 90, but mostly 87-88 or so. His change-up was around 78, which is what the pitchfx data shows.
So how does a guy with standard platoon splits shut down a decent line-up stacked with righties?
First, it looked like he used the change-up much more than the curve. That's actually pretty similar to his M.O. vs. righties in the big leagues, but it was noticeable that the curve was a show-me pitch that he'd leave off the plate. That willingness to work off the plate showed up both in his higher than normal walk total and in his very low SLG percentage against. Remember, this is the same guy who allowed righties to slug over .600 in the majors, and who allowed PCL righties to slug .463 against him in Tacoma last year.
So clearly, he was able to improve the deception on the change-up last night. It's either that or he's willing to use it a lot more. Ryan's pitchfx data show something interesting - he got swinging strikes (the type most likely to stay consistent from year to year) on 13.6% of his change-ups last year, and gave up a home run on only 1 of 206 pitches thrown. His fastball induced swinging strikes only 3.5% of the time, and he gave up 4 HRs in 352 pitches. He was in the strike zone about the same with both pitches - he threw called balls on roughly 34-35% of both FBs and Changes.
From these data, and from his experience giving up 9HRs in less than 50 IP, I'd say Ryan may be learning to trust his change-up a lot more, and to avoid giving the hitter a hitter's pitch even in 2-0, 3-1 counts. His FB isn't good enough to blow by people, and if he wants to be successful, he's going to have to use the change-up a ton, and he's going to have to put the FB on the corners. Sure, this is true for every pitcher. But Feierabend's start last night showed that he doesn't have to be a 2 BB/9IP pitcher to succeed; that approach may actually PREVENT him from succeeding. This isn't a case where he wasn't mixing his pitches before - he was. But the Cha Seung Baek path to (FIP) success isn't going to work here, so he's got to make a change (ha!). So far, so good.
The hitting star was Yung-Chi Chen, who put a charge into a Greg Smith pitch and pulled a double pretty high off the wall in left center. He also had a single and a successful-if-uneventful night in the field. I'm pulling for the guy. Nice photo of him in the Tribune's photo slide show here, and stay tuned here or at Prospect Insider for photos from last night - Positive Paul got some great shots.
Matt Tuiasosopo apparently looked great in BP, but looked absolutely lost in his first AAA AB (a strikeout). He came back with a couple of better ABs, but still looked a bit overmatched. I'm sure there was a lot of pressure on him as his parents and numerous siblings were in attendance - gotta be nice to play in Washington again for the first time since he was at Everett.