One of the major and obvious advantages of pitching in the big leagues, as opposed to the minors, is the abundance of data that is now available.
Washington Nationals’ pitcher Austin Voth told reporters at WinterFest in D.C. he has spent the winter studying up on his 2019 campaign as he tries to build off what was a big season in the 27-year-old right-hander’s development.
“I have more stats, like I can go online and look at what pitches got hit, by what batter, in what count, and that sort of thing,” Voth explained, “and I have more — I think at this level you have more access to video to kind of dissect things and break things down.”
Digging into the data, Voth found some stuff he thinks he can improve upon as he focuses on his preparation for the 2020 campaign.
“One thing that I found out this offseason is my slider got hit a high percentage by righties,” Voth said. “So that’s going to be a pitch that I need to focus on improving, and I know that I’m going to need that pitch going into the season. I’m going to need all four pitches, but that’s one of them that I’m going to need to improve.”
According to BaseballSavant, right-handed hitters had a .300 AVG on Voth’s slider in 2019, with left-handers hitting .250 on the pitch.
What did he see when he started getting into the available data? Or what does he need to change when it comes to his slider?
“It was like quality of the pitch, and the speed,” Voth said. “I was looking at it and I think the speed was 84-88, and it was just — there wasn’t much break, I’d say, so I’m looking to improve upon trying to throw that a little bit hard to differentiate it a little bit more from my curveball, that’s about 80-82, and have it have a little bit more depth going down I’d say.”
Overall last season, Voth put up a 3.30 ERA, a 3.79 FIP, 13 walks (2.68 BB/9), 44 Ks (9.07 K/9), and a .212/.287/.397 line against in 41 1⁄3 IP in his eight starts for the Nationals, and he made one relief appearance as well.
“I saw him in Spring Training this year,” Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said once Voth was done for the year in the regular season, “and I thought that he had matured a lot, even in Spring Training, and he kept going all year.”
“What I like about him, he doesn’t get rattled, and he keeps pumping strikes, he falls behind, he uses all his pitches, and he knows how to get outs.”
“I’d say that I took a step forward this year, compared to last year,” Voth said in summing up his season this past September.
“Last year I just made my debut and I was trying to find myself on this team, and this year I definitely took a step forward and going into next year.”
Going into 2020, Voth said at WinterFest earlier this month, he isn’t sure what role he’ll slot into, whether it’s the fifth starter in the Nationals’ rotation, or a relief role in the bullpen, but whatever he’s asked to do, he’s ready to help at the big league level again after getting a good taste of what it’s like to be a part of something special last season.
“I’ve done both before, obviously I’m used to starting more often, but if I was a reliever as well, a long-relief guy, I’d be fine with that,” Voth told reporters.
“Just want to have a role on this team and be a part of this team.”
Not having a set role as he prepares for Spring Training, Voth said, was no different than any other season.
“Every year I come into Spring Training without a role and I just compete like I’m going to make the team,” he said.
“I know what my strengths and weaknesses are and what I need to do to be able to get on this team. I’m going to put myself into a position to be successful this year.”
With 13 games (and 10 starts) on his resume at this point, Voth knows what to expect when it comes to pitching in the majors, which is a significant advantage going forward in his big league career.
“I can go into the season, I know — it’s not like I’m debuting again. I don’t have those jitters.
“I know what to expect. I know how to prepare for a start. I can sit down with my catcher and we can go over things, so the plan and the preparation is a little bit smoother I’d say.”
“I feel like I took a step forward this past year,” Voth added at another point, “on a personal note, and I was able to accomplish a little bit more than I did the previous year, and going into this year and [I’m] trying to improve on my stuff, and just continue to get better and make the club.”