Darren O’Day isn’t your typical submariner. While most pitchers with down-under arm angles live down in the zone, O’Day features a lot of four-seamers up, and he’s thrived while doing so. Over his 12 big-league seasons, the 37-year-old right-hander has logged a 2.55 ERA and fanned better than a batter per nine innings. Since the start of the 2015 season, his K/9 is an eye-opening 13.1.
O’Day, whose best seasons have come with the Baltimore Orioles, is currently with the Atlanta Braves. He discussed his pitching M.O., and explained why his “Jenny Finch” is such an effective weapon, in a recent phone conversation.
David Laurila: You’re atypical in that you work up in the zone from a low arm angle. How did that come to be?
Darren O’Day: “When I was a rookie — kind of a scared rookie — I did what the team told me to do. My short time with the Mets, as well. I pitched down in the zone, because I’m a sidearmer, a submariner, and they wanted groundballs. They didn’t care about strikeouts as much back then; they just wanted quick outs, which was kind of the philosophy of the game.
“Then I bounced to my third team, the Rangers, about a year after [breaking into the big leagues]. I kind of said, ‘Forget about that. I’m going to pitch the way I want and figure out if I’m good enough to be here.’ That’s when I started pitching up in the zone, in 2009, and you saw the strikeout numbers go up a little bit.
“That’s really been the big paradigm shift in baseball, and it’s kind of ‘the chicken or the egg’ — did the high damage come first, or did the need for the swing-and-miss come first? But that’s what everybody wants, even if it costs you a couple more pitches per inning.” Read the rest of this entry »