An Adjustment For Brandon Maurer
The Mariners, as I write this, are still busy playing the A’s. They’re losing! But Brandon Maurer’s effort is finished, and he went five innings, throwing 95 pitches and missing with a lot of them. On one hand, Maurer’s game wasn’t particularly good, since he allowed eight baserunners, three runs, and two dingers. He’s currently on the hook for the loss. But Maurer also finished with two walks and four strikeouts against a lefty-heavy lineup, and when Maurer faced the A’s on April 4, he allowed six runs in six frames while striking out one. So for Maurer, this wasn’t bad, and more importantly, he did something he hadn’t really done before.
Dave’s written about Maurer’s godawful platoon splits. Here’s all you need to know about Maurer coming into today:
vs. RHB: 2 walks, 16 strikeouts
vs. LHB: 6 walks, 2 strikeouts
Maurer has really liked his slider, and his changeup hasn’t been any good. With a good slider, Maurer’s pitched well against righties, but without a good changeup, he’s been exposed against lefties, leading to the comical numbers above. Maurer’s going to need to be able to pitch to lefties if he wants to stick as a starter. The best way for a righty to be able to pitch to lefties is by having a worthwhile changeup.
Or a worthwhile curveball. And Maurer throws a curveball, but he hasn’t thrown it much, especially against lefties. Not in the early going. One out of every 26 pitches Maurer had thrown to lefties had been a curve. Over Maurer’s first six big-league starts, he threw all of eight curves to lefties. Tonight, against Oakland, he threw 11 curves to lefties.
A summary table, showing Maurer against left-handed hitters:
And for whatever it’s worth, PITCHf/x also missed a few pitches. According to Shannon Drayer, Maurer had been working on deploying the curve more often in side sessions, and sure enough, he brought the adjustment into meaningful gameplay, not shying away from something he hadn’t been doing. Dave wrote that Maurer was probably going to need a better change. At least for now, Maurer seems to prefer the curve.
But throwing the pitch more often is only part of the battle. Of the curves, eight were balls, two were called strikes, and one was swung on and missed. It’s going to take some time for Maurer to develop the curve and/or the change into weapons against lefties. It might not even ever happen. Effort and practice don’t always yield the desired results in the end. But it’s good to see Maurer try something, and he did walk just one lefty, against three strikeouts. In Maurer’s seventh start, he threw three more curves to lefties than he had in his first six, and he struck out one more lefty than he had in his first six. Maybe it’s something. Surely, we’ll find out.
Mike Zunino’s a prospect who’s down on the farm, and he’s actively developing, going through a bunch of highs and a bunch of lows. That’s to be expected, and one hopes that he’ll learn from his struggles and get better as a consequence. Brandon Maurer is also a prospect. He’s just trying to get his growth in in the major leagues. Maybe it’s better this way or maybe it’s worse, but if nothing else we’ll be able to keep an unsettlingly close eye on his progress.