Late this season, Padres righty Andrew Cashner came back from a shoulder injury with a new twist on his repertoire — again. This time, he featured a few more high fastballs and big curves than he had in the past. You’d think those two pitches are often linked across baseball, but the numbers aren’t as clear.
The last time Cashner came back from injury, he focused on throwing more two-seamers to get quicker outs, altered his changeup grip, and changed his grip on his breaking pitch. These changes were made with his health in mind, but they also served to make him a more complete pitcher.
This year, when he came back from shoulder inflammation that sidelined him for two months, Cashner again came back from a wrinkle. “I started throwing the four-seamer more in order to establish the high strike,” Cashner said before a game against the Giants in late September. Of course the pitcher knows best about his approach, but it’s worth noticing that he only threw an average of three more four-seam fastballs per game when he returned compared to the same time frame before his injury. And that his heat maps before and after his injury aren’t conclusive on the subject of high four-seamers.
He pointed out that he threw more curveballs when he came back, too. He’d thrown nine in his first fourteen starts before he got hurt. He threw 18 curves in the seven starts that came after his stint on the DL. This September was the month in which Cashner showed the best whiff rate on his curve ball in his career.
The second part of the plan was paired with the first, he admitted. That high fastball is “on the same plane” as the curveball. That makes all sorts of intuitive sense, considering the way the the idea of a high 94 mph high fastball coming the same general area as a big, dropping slow curve. It’s the kind of thing that seems to work for other pitchers.
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.