After Jacob Turner‘s first Major League start this year, I wrote an article a lot like this one. In it I said that since we last saw the right-handed prospect he had changed from a power pitcher to a more crafty guy who pitches to contact. I’m not here to say that I was wrong when I wrote that article a few weeks ago. Instead I want to analyze how a pitcher that used to depend on his fastball to get strikeouts is now using his secondary pitches to get swings and misses. Especially on his two-seam fastball and his curveball.
For reference sake last night against the Brewers Jacob Turner went 7 IP, 3 ER, 5H and 6 K throwing 58 strikes on 89 pitches facing 28 batters. The last few times I wrote one of these pitch F/X breakdowns I tried to give an overview of how the pitcher performed and how his pitches influenced the at-bats and how the pitcher approached each batter. In this article I want to to change things up a little a breakdown two at-bats and how Turner’s new approach and use of his secondary pitches showed that he can still be a strikeout pitcher, if no longer a power pitcher.
Turner’s use of the curveball and the two seam fastball were synergistic which is to say they fed off each other. In Turner’s at-bat in the first inning against Johnathan Lucroy in the first inning he got the strikeout by using the two aforementioned pitches.
The above chart shows how the curveball in the dirt and the two-seamer outside are almost impossible to hit. Let me explain, pitching is about deception and the curveball/two-seamer combo plays off of the “changing eye levels” effect. Pitches 1 and 2 were fastballs in the strike zone, common early in the at-bat pitches, at that point Lucroy was down 0-2 and Turner had the luxury to make a perfect pitch. Pitches 3-4 were curveball outside and low and in the dirt, Turner had no expectation that Lucroy would swing at these but what they do is to make a batter change his process and change eye levels, expect pitches low and away. So when Turner threw pitch 5, the two-seamer inside Lucroy was tied up and swung and missed, in fact he was tied-up and struck out. This at-bat shows the importance of two factors, to be able to get ahead in the count and second to throw at least two secondary pitches effectively, in and around the strike zone, but not exclusively for strikes. Curveballs and sliders are often more effective as a pitches that are swung on and missed and are never meant to be thrown for strikes. The first inning at-bat against Lucroy is a great example of how Turner now goes about his business, as more of a finesse pitcher.
The at-bat against Lucroy ended with a two-seamer now in the second inning strikeout of Schafer ended with a curveball and the at-bat unfolded almost backward. Again Turner got out ahead to a 0-2 count and had two balls to work with
Against Schafer a left-handed hitter Turner threw two two-seamers away one for a ball and another was spoiled foul but again that works to set up the batter for later in the at-bat. Chasing balls away leaves the entire rest of the plate for the hitter to cover and the pitcher to work with. At 1-2 Turner tried to get a strike-out with the curveball, but Schafer fouled it off. With the count at 1-2 and two straight foul balls, Turner uncorked a curveball in the dirt which Schafer swung and missed on. That works because the hitter was set up to work the outside of the zone and when a pitcher drops out of nowhere it is almost impossible to hit. The at-bats against Lucroy and Schafer were mirror images of each other but work on the same principle.
In my first article against Turner in his 2013 debut against the Mets last month I said that the young righty no longer looked like a power pitcher. What today’s start proved is that although Turner is no longer a power guy at least he can still fool hitters and get swings and misses. Turner’s ability to throw two secondary pitches effectively, the curveball and the two-seamer make him an effective pitcher throwing both pitches to both left-handed and right-handed hitters. Hopefully Turner can maintain this form and continue to both get outs by contact and by striking batters out