Brett Oberholtzer: Two Pitches, One Grip

Brett Oberholtzer’s best pitch is his changeup. Well, that’s the one that gets the Astros’ starter his whiffs and has been his signature pitch. But it might be the curveball that best describes his approach on the mound. Because the curveball is two pitches. Brett Oberholtzer has a slider.

You might not see the slider in some of the classification systems you use. And even then, you might not see a lot of them in the numbers. But “Obie” throws them, and fairly often. The slider is “just my curveball, but I throw a little harder, take a little off, just mix it up — same grip, different speed, to disrupt timing,” the pitcher told me before a game against the Athletics this week.

Curve on the left, slider on the right

In the Atlanta organization, Oberholtzer learned about “changing speeds when I needed to.” A way of going about your business in a class manner. And yes, “low and away,” he admitted, but “that’s pitching in general.” Oberholtzer likes to put this curve low in the strike zone, and he’s made two pitches out of one with a change of speeds, so this pitch is a product of his past.

Movement (PITCHFx_x and PITCHFx_z on the x and y coordinates) and velocity (color, red is slow, green is fast) of all Brett Oberholtzer pitches classified as curveballs. Looks like he has some faster curves with less movement (top, green cluster) and some slower curves with more drop (bottom, red).

The Houston lefty also credits Burt Hooten and Dennis Martinez for his approach. El Presidente and Happy taught him an old school approach: “I’m coming at you with all strikes and hit it or sit down.” Making the game less complicated is a thing for Oberholtzer, and it can be all about the next pitch. “When you throw a pitch, you give and receive information,” he says.

The curve. Big drop, 78 mph.

Sometimes, you could say, he finds out that they have spotted his curveball and are sitting on it. then he adds a little oomph and he’s got another pitch. “When the game goes on it’s like a chess match, I just pick and choose when to throw it,” said the pitcher about the curve and slider. “Guys change their approach all the time, they talk with their hitting coach, see the ball better,” Oberholtzer said, so it makes sense for him to change too.

The slider. Little drop, 82 mph.

Brett Oberholtzer knows that “one pitch at a time doesn’t sound like preparation.” But for him it just means that “good hitters are going to hit bad pitches” — he joked that everybody in the big leagues “can hit a fastball, doesn’t mean you won’t throw them a fastball.” And it means that he’s got to be ready to take in the information he receives every time he throws a pitch. Because that information might tell him that he has to turn his curveball into a slider for his next pitch.

With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

newest oldest most voted

Think Houston righty should be Houston lefty, but otherwise very interesting article.