Odds and ends: Beachy proves he can be successful without his slider
Brandon Beachy displayed a sense of satisfaction as he stood in front of his locker following Saturday’s 12-inning win over the Phillies. While pitching into the seventh inning of the long contest, the Braves right-hander had proven that he can be successful despite the fact that he does not currently have the luxury to rely on his slider.
Beachy’s slider was the prime secondary pitch that he displayed before undergoing Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. According to FanGraphs, 18.3 percent of the pitches he threw before injuring his elbow last year were sliders. This essentially matched the combined percentages of his two other secondary pitches — curveball (9.3 percent) and changeup (9.5 percent).
Through the two starts he has made over the past week, it has been evident that he does not yet have enough confidence in his surgically-repaired elbow to consistently command his slider. According to BrooksBaseball, Beachy threw 19 sliders as he labored through 3 2/3 innings against the Rockies on Monday and then just two sliders during Saturday’s outing in Philadelphia.
After hanging a slider that Phillies outfielder John Mayberry hit into the left field seats for a two-run homer in the second inning, Beachy essentially ditched the pitch. The only other time he threw came via a 1-2 waste pitch to reliever Zach Miner, whose only previous big league plate appearances came in 2006 (6) and 2009 (1).
But while complimenting his fastball with the curveball and changeup, Beachy had little trouble during his four full innings of work. After allowing hits to three of the first four batters he faced in the second inning, he retired 14 of the next 16 batters he faced and did not allow a hit during this span.
<p> “I’m a better pitcher with (the slider),” Beachy said after the game. “I’m going to keep working on it in the bullpens and eventually I’ll get the feel for that back and have that as a weapon.” </P>
While there is a chance Beachy will begin commanding the slider again before the end of this season, none of us should be surprised if we do not see this pitch become a primary weapon again until he has a chance to strengthen his arm and gain more confidence in his elbow this winter. But for now it appears he can continue to at least be effective while placing a much greater emphasis on his changeup and curveball.
As the Braves attempt to complete a three-game series sweep of the Phillies tonight, they will intently watch Alex Wood with the hope that he extends the success he produced during his strong seven-inning effort against the Rockies on Tuesday. Two of the three runs Wood surrendered in this outing came courtesy of the misplaced 1-1 fastball that Nolan Arenado hit into the left field seats with two outs in the second inning, which is when Wood was bothered by a cracked cuticle on his right index finger.
When Wood has been occasionally bothered by this cuticle over the past couple months, he has been forced to ditch his curveball — a pitch that might have been effective against Arenado in that situation. Thanks to some quick assistance from the Braves’ medical staff between the second and third innings, Wood was able to complete the rest of the outing without any further problems or restrictions. He threw a total of 18 curves during the game and retired 14 of the last 17 batters he faced.
Wood will likely need to be similarly efficient in tonight’s matchup against Cliff Lee, who has posted a 1.38 ERA in his past seven starts against Atlanta. The only runs the Braves have tallied against Lee this year came during the four-run seventh they produced during a July 5 loss in Philadelphia.
Of course Lee also faces a great challenge as he attempts to cool a Braves offense that has averaged 6.9 runs during the team’s current nine-game winning streak.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I might be among those who have placed too great of an emphasis on runners in scoring position stats. At the time, I was pointing out that the Pirates and Braves ranked as the NL’s two worst teams in this category and still possessed two of the NL’s top records.
Well the Pirates still own the NL’s worst batting average with RISP and entered Sunday with the Senior Circuit’s best winning percentage. As for the Braves, they ranked last in this category when July began and now own the NL’s third-best mark.
While going 21-11 dating back to June 28, the Braves have hit .319 (88-for-276) with RISP. They had batted just .225 with RISP during the 77 games that preceded this stretch.
NOTES: If the Braves beat the Phillies tonight, they will have swept nine of the NL’s 16 teams in a series consisting of at least three games…Atlanta’s 11 1/2-game division lead is the largest they have had through 111 games since the 2002 team had a 17 1/2-game advantage…According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the five hits the Braves recorded on Saturday was the fewest they have had in a game that lasted 12 innings or longer since the famous game they won against Pittsburgh’s Harvey Haddix on May 26, 1959. Haddix proved perfect through 12 innings that day and ended up allowing just one hit — Joe Adcock’s game-winning double with two outs in the 13th inning. Lew Burdette scattered 12 hits over 13 scoreless innings to get the win for Milwaukee.