Josh Kinney Throws Breaking Balls
Josh Kinney throws a lot of sliders. In fact, Baseball Info Solutions has categorized 56% of the pitches that Josh Kinney has thrown this season as sliders – only three pitchers (min 10 IP) have a higher slider usage rate in baseball this year. So, any time you see Josh Kinney on the mound, you should think “hey, I bet he’s about to throw a slider.”
Well, today, Josh Kinney was asked to face the final nine batters of the game, rather than being used in his normal situational right-handed role. He threw 43 pitches to those nine batters, but the PITCHF/x system only captured 42 of them. Here’s what a PITCHF/x plot of those 42 pitches looks like.
That blob in the middle? Those are his sliders. I count 18 of them – ignore the gameday classifications, as they’re not always great, and are especially not great for Kinney today. Anyway, that’s actually not a ton of sliders, by Josh Kinney standards anyway. But, if you look to the left, you’ll see another sizable blob – those are curve balls, a slightly slower breaking ball that Kinney decided to introduce since he was asked to get some left-handers out. There are 15 of those. That means that 33 of the 42 pitches that PITCHF/x picked up on were breaking balls of some kind.
That’s 79% of his pitches. Josh Kinney threw nearly half as many pitches as a starter does on most days, and only 21% of them were fastballs. Josh Kinney basically just junked his way threw the Twins entire line-up.
This is both amazing and a reason why you shouldn’t get too excited about Josh Kinney’s strikeout rate. If you just focused on that number, you might surmise that he’s just a little command improvement away from being a good reliever. In reality, though, he’s a guy who just throws breaking ball after breaking ball until opposing batters either draw a walk or chase something out of the zone and strike themselves out. As you might imagine, this shtick works a lot better against righties than lefties (since breaking balls diving away from you are harder to hit than ones diving into your wheelhouse), and Kinney’s off-speed based approach actually makes him a pretty decent right-on-right specialist. He’s basically Lucas Luetge flipped around the other way.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but he probably shouldn’t be asked to face nine batters very often.