Difference In Nicasio

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Juan puns are the equivalent to the Happ puns from last year, awful, for me at least, but I decided I should join the “fun” this year. The start Nicasio had today against the Detroit Tigers was not a very good Juan, and it did not make many fans Happ(y). Nicasio went from having a shove session against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 6 to a complete 180 against the Tigers this afternoon. Nicasio really highlighted some of his biggest question marks in that start in terms of control and if he can be a starter. After dazzling in the spring, Nicasio looked the part in his first start, and then yesterday occurred.

In his first game, Nicasio threw 6 innings, giving up only one run on a Jeremy Hazelbaker home run to lead off the sixth, and if it wasn’t for the fact he was up second in the bottom of the sixth and it wasn’t his first start, he probably would’ve went out to start the top half of the seventh. In all, Juan threw 84 pitches – an impressive 59 strikes – en route to his first victory of the year. Most impressive, however, was Nicasio’s zero walks and seven strikeouts, a 10.5 K/9 rate.

April 6
April 6 /

To the right is the strike zone plot of his first start from

Brooks Baseball

. He was mixing his locations up going both up in the zone and down in the zone. And although he favored his arm side, especially when he missed off the plate, Nicasio did enough to keep the Cardinal hitters off balance and not knowing where to target. Juan was doing what he did in spring training – dominate opponents, mainly with his fastball. His fastball usage was at an extremely high 59.04 percent averaging 95.34 miles per hour with a break of 4.17 inches arm side. His slider was also relied on heavily, 34.94 percent and averaging 86.18 miles per hour and breaking downward of 0.42 inches and moving glove side 2.40 inches. He had the nice bite on his slider to put away batters, getting three of his seven outs on that pitch, despite his home run to Hazelbaker being from the slider. Overall he pitched well – despite only using two pitches – because he had impeccable control and his ball was moving well, especially his fastball.

Today against Detroit, Nicasio lasted only three innings, giving up four runs in the process. Nicasio threw 55.3 percent strikes in his 94 total pitches. He walked five and only struck out four. It was a large difference from his previous game against the Cardinals. A look at his strike zone plot shows his control problems better than any other resource. Like Justin Verlander, who struggled in game one against the Pirates lineup, Nicasio was missing up – a lot. And Nicasio not only missed up, he missed down the plate when he was in the zone. The Tigers offense pounced and forced him to throw a lot of pitchers in a short span of innings. The biggest concern – and most notable – is the difference in the velocity from game one to game two. In the games yesterday, Nicasio used his four seam fastball 69.6 percent of the time, averaging only 94 miles per hour, however he did top at 97. His slider, used 22.8 percent of the outing, averaged only 84.6 miles per hour. His fastball was down 1.34 miles per hour and his slider was down 1.58 miles per hour. The other notable thing was how his ball moved

April 12
April 12 /

different than it did in his first start. His fastball was averaging a break of 4.76 arm side, and his slider was averaging a break of 2.65 inches glove side and 0.20 inches downward. It may sound strange, as movement usually is a good thing, but not being used to that amount of movement may have cause Nicasio to be less effective, a la Charlie Morton the last couple years.

Another thing to look at is his at bat results map and where the pitches were located, a more isolated view of his pitch locations leading to results. Nicasio was able to pound the zone low to get his positive results in game. The negative action? Almost all of it was due to leaving pitches right down the heart of the plate, when he was able to hit the zone that is.

Strike Zone Results
April 6 vs St. Louis /
Strike Zone Reults
April 12 v Detroit /

These are easy fixes for both Searage and Nicasio to fix, mainly being a slight difference in his release point.

12ehwl /

As seen on the left, Nicasio’s release point was a tad higher in the game against Detroit than it was against the Cardinals. These are fixes that should be able to be done relatively quickly by Juan, and pitching coach Ray Searage should notice and pickup when watching video of this start. And when Nicasio takes the mound against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday, April 17 I’d be shocked to not see more of the Nicasio that was seen on April 6. Getting his release point back on track should allow for more of a strike throwing and down in the zone Juan, than a wild and up in the zone with leaving pitches over the center of the plate Juan. With the Brewers being a weaker opponent – on paper – the Nicasio may look to pick up his second strong start of the season, and to make up for the disastrous one he had today. That should make for a Juan Happ(y) camper come next Sunday.

*Numbers from baseball-reference.com and pitch data from brooksbaseball.net