One thing that is obvious is the Pittsburgh Pirates new pitching philosophy is working. Although it is hard to call it new, as this is an approach we have seen work in the past. Uncle Ray Searage introduced the idea of having basically all his pitchers throw 2-seam/sinking fastballs. Now, Oscar Marin is bringing that same philosophy back to the staff.
We have seen Mitch Keller have tremendous success from adding the pitch to his arsenal. Last night, Pittsburgh Pirates starter Luis Oviedo introduced the sinking fastball for the first time in a start. It went really well for him and looked to be a plus pitch.
One thing that stood out to me about Luis Ortiz was this same thing. Last year in his limited amount of starts he threw way more 4-seam fastballs than sinking fastballs. He threw a sinking fastball 14% of the time in his starts last season. Meanwhile, he was throwing his 4-seamer 43% of the time, averaging 98.5 miles per hour.
This year things have looked very different from the starter. He is throwing a sinking fastball double the amount he did last year. He is now throwing the pitch 28% of the time and has seen the average velocity dip to 96.5 miles per hour. At the same time, he is getting hit much harder this year a 48.6% rate compared to a 30% rate last season.
Pittsburgh Pirates Luis Ortiz is using his sinking fastball and may be losing velocity because of it.
So what is the determination here? Obviously, the Pittsburgh Pirates want their starters throwing a sinking fastball. However, will it be a one-size fits all approach? Many questioned years ago whether or not Gerrit Cole was having his ceiling lowered because of this approach. Since he has been traded, Cole has gone from a really good pitcher to an elite starter.
Could the same be said for Ortiz, who is now considered one of the better pitching prospects in Baseball? If his sinker continues to get hit hard will the Bucs continue to try and develop it? Or will they let him go back to what was working for him last season? The Pittsburgh Pirates need Ortiz to reach his potential, so it is vital for them to figure this out.