“We saw some growth from him,” Davey Martinez said of 2014 1st Round pick Erick Fedde in a late-season talk with reporters about the Washington Nationals’ 28-year-old right-hander’s development in his fifth major league season.
“We saw some maturity from him. Obviously we wanted better numbers, but we saw some good things.”
Fedde finished the year with a 5.26 ERA, a 4.66 FIP, 48 walks (3.24 BB/9), and 128 strikeouts (8.64 K/9) in 29 games, 27 starts, and 133 1⁄3 IP, with a .270/.333/.461 line against in 131 2⁄3 IP as a starter.
“Moving forward, this winter, we talked a lot about him getting a lot stronger, physically,” his manager explained, “... and then coming back ... we want him to utilize more changeups, more two-seamers versus lefties, so that’s something we’re really going to hone in on.”
Fedde threw his changeup just 10.2% of the time in 2021, with opposing hitters hitting only .204 on it when he did throw it. He mixed in his cutter (23%, .232 BAA), but relied on a two-seamer/sinker (41.4%, .336 BAA), and curveball (23.4%, .217 BAA), which he threw more this season than in any of his other previous big league campaigns, leaning heavily on it down the stretch, after changing his grip to one left-handed reliever Sam Clay showed him that the righty fell in love with.
“I adopted the grip and it immediately clicked,” Fedde told reporters last summer.
“Slid to a different seam on the ball, and didn’t really change I guess the way I was throwing it, just the way I was gripping it,” he explained.
“And I think it’s just had way more bite and hitters definitely aren’t seeing it as well.”
Fedde threw it 37%-45% of the time in his September starts.
“It’s a pitch that he really likes,” Martinez said after Fedde threw his curve 41% of the time in a September start against Miami. “He throws it two different speeds, but we definitely don’t want him to throw it that much.”
“We want to see him attacking the strike zone a lot more with his fastball,” Martinez added at another point, “with his cutter, which has played well, and also, he throws his changeup every now and then very effectively, and instead of a curveball he could use his changeup sometimes.”
Fedde said after his final start of the season that he’d been leaning on it since it had been an effective pitch for him, and he credited the pitch with the success he had in a stretch which saw him walk just three batters in six starts and 30 2⁄3 IP (0.88 BB/9) between 8/24-9/20.
“I just felt like usually over the last couple starts I’ve been able to land curveballs early in the count,” he said after walking three in 4 2⁄3 IP in a September 25th outing against the Cincinnati Reds.
“That just didn’t happen today, then when you’re pitching 1-0, 2-0, and especially with guys on base, just trying to make really good pitches, it leads to the walks.”
Fedde acknowledged at that point that his reliance on the pitch may have made its way into opposing teams’ scouting reports.
“I definitely think maybe that third time through the lineup today it looked like the hitters were maybe more on top of it, or not flinching as much as it,” he said.
“Maybe something that’s becoming part of the report, and something I need to be more effective with the other pitches, maybe a little higher percentage of those going forward.”
His manager echoed Fedde’s sentiments.
“His breaking ball is good, but when he’s throwing it that much, you lose the effect,” he said, picking up the thread after a September 29th outing for Fedde out of the bullpen.
“We want him to really focus on throwing more two-seamers, more changeups to lefties, and pound the zone with the two-seamers to righties, and then off of that he can use his breaking ball a little bit more.”
After matching his career-high in appearances (at any level of the pro game) and setting a new career-high in innings pitched, Fedde will be back in Spring Training next year fighting for his spot in the Nationals’ rotation again.
“This year he was a starter. He got in and he pitched every five days, that’s how we saw him,” Martinez said.
“Coming into Spring Training, like I tell all these guys, it’s going to be a new year, so you got to be ready to pitch. I can tell you right now I haven’t made any decisions about what’s going to happen next year, so he knows he’s got to come to Spring Training and be ready to go.”