Pitching on Fumes
I have to admit, when I saw Curt Schilling’s first few fastballs float in at 88 mph, I predicted a quick exit for the veteran hurler and an end to the Red Sox in the 2007 playoffs. But the old man got the job done, allowing only 6 hits over 7 innings, striking out five and walking none. He never topped 93 on the radar gun (and only hit it once against Hafner), but kept the Indians off balance with his splitter and threw a lot of first-pitch strikes. Here’s his location over the night.
Amazingly, of those 14 called strikes, 9 of them came on the first pitch to the batter. He started almost every at bat with a fastball. Here’s the movement on his first pitches- there are 2 curveballs and one splitter, and the rest of them relatively straight fastballs:
Otherwise, his control was good but not great. He left a lot of pitches up and over the plate that the Indians were unable to take advantage of. Why? Take a look at his pitch movement over the night:
After the first pitch, he threw a ton of splitters and they were diving a over half a foot. His fastball was also moving up to eight inches to either side, and quite often he took up to 10 mph off of it (although I’m not sure about those pitches that pitch f/x says were under 70 mph- one of them was the 4th pitch of the game to Grady Sizemore and there’s no way that was a 59 mph fastball. Two of the release points in that at-bat were about a foot to the right so maybe they were still setting up the system).
He also tossed in a handful of curveballs mostly as a show-me pitch. I don’t think he throws a cut fastball, but some of his fast splitters moved almost like a normal pitcher’s cutter. The two parallel lines made by his fastball and splitter suggest his split-fingered pitch cuts in and down and he can modify it for speed vs. break in the same way as his fastball.
All in all it was a pretty predictable game plan for a reformed power pitcher. Schilling threw first pitch fastballs for strikes, and then threw offspeed pitches to induce weak contact and expand the zone for strikeouts later in the count. The Indians took a lot of early strikes and had trouble with his splitter and a variety of different fastballs. There was nothing special about either his control or movement tonight, but the crafty vet had the Indians on the wrong foot and guessing wrong all night. Expect Westbrook to attempt the same thing tomorrow night.