Litsch Mark II
Let’s just forget about Jason Frasor doing what Jason Frasor does and go straight to Jesse Litsch, who looked like a man restored on the mound this afternoon. A little background straight from the coaches mouth: Litsch spent his time in the minors working on a new 4-seam fastball and improving his sinker, which Brad Arnsberg referred to as “total transformation“.
Litsch’s 4-seamer didn’t quite touch the 95 it did on the minor league gun today – it sat around 92-93 in the first few innings and then tailed off throughout the game. But the real transformation was how many sinkers, changeups and 4-seamers Jesse threw, and how consistent the movement on them was. Compare the graph above to a start from earlier this season (which was actually a pretty good outing against the Royals).
This has pretty much been Litsch all season (except with even more cut fastballs). Great cutter, but as soon as he goes to throw something that tails the other way, who the heck knows what it’s going to do once it leaves his hand. Then he gives up on it and just starts pumping one cutter after the other. However, Litsch’s start today looked a lot more like one of the gems he threw last season when he was feeling his sinker and change, but with his new 4-seamer as well.
I’m going to toot my own horn here for saying in that post (and ad nauseum this preseason) that despite his mound presence, Litsch really wasn’t polished enough to be ready. Until today, he’s just never looked like other other pitchers, but managed to get through a season’s worth of starts because no starter in the league throws what is essentially a slider over and over.
Ok, during his early season run of success I may have fallen for the hypothesis that the “cutterballer” was a new breed of pitcher, but Arnsberg and whatever manager he’s used as a mouthpiece have insisted he has to develop a consistent fastball (or sinker) to stay effective – and now it looks like he finally has.