Since a young age, pitchers have had it drilled into them that the best pitch they can throw is strike one. Hitters take a vastly different approach when behind in the count rather than ahead, and so the first pitch of an at-bat is almost always the most important one. Because they want to get ahead in the count, most pitchers throw first pitch fastballs, as it’s the pitch they are most confident that they can put in the strike zone.
Well, Sean Marshall is not most pitchers – at least not anymore. He followed the traditional first pitch fastball model for the first few years of his career, throwing it 64 percent of the time in 2006 and 56 percent of the time in 2007. He was moved to the bullpen in 2008, and dropped his first-pitch fastball usage down to 44 percent, though it was still the pitch he used most often.
The last two years, though, it has lost its prominence, thanks to the addition of the ever popular cutter. Last year, he threw a first-pitch fastball just 23 percent of the time, and this year it’s down to 18 percent, half as often as he throws a first-pitch curveball. He’s also more likely to throw a cutter (27 percent) or a slider (19 percent) on the first pitch of an at-bat.
Despite pitching backwards, Marshall has actually thrown more first pitch strikes than he did when he was featuring his fastball – 57 percent this year. He’s achieving the goal of getting ahead of hitters, but he’s just doing it with off-speed stuff.
Even when he falls behind 1-0, he still doesn’t throw the fastball. He bags the curveball for the most part, but throws a lot of cutters and sliders. Even 2-0, he only throws 26 percent fastballs, sticking with the two softer pitches he feels he can throw for strikes. He finally relents on 3-0, throwing the fastball 86 percent of the time, but given how often hitters have the take sign, he knows its not all that likely to be chased. On 3-1 counts, he rarely throws it.
Read the Full Article: Sean Marshal is a Rebel