This post contains doesn’t contain much substantive baseball analysis. Instead, it’s an observation about Carlos Frias, who is capably filling into a rotation that desperately needs it.
The main complaint about Frias is that he doesn’t throw many off-speed pitches. Here’s me, in the game thread before his last start against San Francisco:
Frias still seems like a reliever, since he doesn’t really use any off-speed pitches. So far this year, he’s thrown his sinker, cutter, and fourseam a combined 92% of the time. Even a slider would do. Still, there’s a lot to like about a pitcher who pounds the strike zone and hits 98 as a starter.
92% fastballs! That’s pretty significant and something that doesn’t seem like it can last if Frias is going to start. But, a raw percentage doesn’t really tell the whole story. Here are the pitch usages during all four of Frias’ starts this season:
It turns out that he is adjusting, or at least the recent trend makes it seem that way. He started out at 95% fastballs in his first start, but that number has steadily decreased from start to start. In his last start, that number was down to just 71%. His fourseams and sinkers have been replaced by more sliders and changes. It’s a small trend, since there can’t be a large one in four starts, but it’s pretty encouraging to see.
The pitches worked pretty well in that start against the Giants, too. Here’s the change, which Brandon Crawford swung through on the first pitch:
Here’s the slider (though to my eyes it looks more like a curve) striking out Hunter Pence:
Here it is again, striking out Buster Posey in a tough spot:
There’s some selection bias in these GIFs, since I selected them from whiffs only. Still, when a batter is expecting 95+mph fastballs and/or sinkers, even a small string to pull can be extremely useful.
Another way to phrase this: Here are the number of swinging strikes on pitches less than 90mph for every start in Frias’ career with over 50 pitches, in chronological order:
3 3 4 2 7 8
It’s progress! It could point to a way for him to maintain himself as a starter. He’s still probably not the next Garrett Richards. It will take a lot more to prove his long-term value as a starting pitcher than what he has demonstrated so far, but it’s a good sign. Even if he isn’t a starter long-term, these breaking pitches would be incredibly useful in the bullpen. Carlos Frias looks like he belongs in the majors, and that’s all that we can ask of him.