Before he tried to take the curveball grip he learned from reliever Sam Clay into a game, Erick Fedde told Jim Hickey, the Washington Nationals’ pitching coach, that he’d seen it work for the left-hander while watching iPad videos of other pitchers and thought it just might be something that could work for him.
“He brought it up to Hickey, and Hickey wanted to see it first before he went out there and did anything,” manager Davey Martinez said, “... and it did, the break was a lot better as we saw.”
Martinez and Fedde discussed his new curveball grip Fedde struck out 10 hitters in a 6 1⁄3-inning start in Miami on August 24th, in an outing in which he threw his breaking ball 38 times overall (a total of 37% of his 103 pitches, up from a full season-average of 17.6% of the time). Fedde generated 21 swings and nine swinging strikes with the curveball against the Marlins, and he collected three called strikes with the pitch as well, which his manager said was the best curveball he’d seen the 28-year-old throw.
Before he took it into a game though, Martinez and Hickey wanted to make sure it would not adversely affect the 28-year-old, 2014 1st Round pick.
“Yeah, the biggest thing is his release point and seeing if he’s doing anything different with arm, his wrist,” Martinez explained.
“Because now is no time to be switching anything on your mechanics, but everything was normal, it was just the grip, and like I said, when Hickey saw it he liked the depth on it a lot better, so they went with it and as you can see the results were really good.”
Having seen Fedde have success with the pitch against the Fish, Martinez said the swings the starter was getting with the pitch were a good indication of its effectiveness.
“The breaking ball was a lot sharper than it ever has been, it was shorter, it was a late break, tough to recognize, you could tell by the swings of the hitters,” Martinez said.
“If he can do that consistently and keep it that way, he’s going to be good. We said that before.”
Before Fedde’s outing against the New York Mets in Citi Field on Sunday, Martinez talked about what he thought was behind the swings and misses from Marlins’ hitters?
“I think it looked like it was almost on the same plane as his fastball which was kind of nice,” he said. “So, when you’re hitting, your eyes work up and down a lot better than side-to-side, and when he’s throwing his fastballs down like that, or up, and you see the breaking balls at the same level, it’s hard to differentiate which ball is what and he did that really well the other day.”
Going up against the Mets in the series finale on Sunday, Fedde had a walk, single, passed ball, and a balk lead to the first run of the game scoring, and he took the mound with a 2-1 lead in the fourth and gave up a bomb of a two-run home run on a 1-0 curve up and away that Javier Báez hit 444 feet into the second deck in left field.
It was 4-3 in the Mets’ favor in the sixth when Dominic Smith hit another curve up and over the middle out to right-center to drive in another run in Fedde’s final at bat.
Fedde threw his curveball for 38 of 99 pitches, 38%, more than his cutter (27%) or sinker (26%), and got 21 swings, 11 whiffs, and six called strikes with the pitch.
After two solid starts, Sunday’s outing was something of a step back.
“I think the biggest thing was just my fastball command,” Fedde said after the Nationals’ 9-4 loss. “I think it got — I don’t know the percentages or anything, but I think we just really got away from my fastball, just because it was kind of all over the place and I think that letting the guys see my breaking stuff a little too much. But yeah, I mean, there’s still some times I look at there was guys on base and I made some good pitches, but the pitch to Báez and the one to [Jonathan] Villar just pretty bad pitches in general.”
The pitch to Villar was a cutter, middle-middle, that bounced off the wall in center, just out of Lane Thomas’s reach on a bad read by the center fielder at the fence.
Fedde’s manager said the curveball, “wasn’t sharp as it was the other day. He threw some good ones, but it wasn’t consistent. I know he was trying to go down with the curveball, he just left it up and Báez, you leave something up like that, he’s a good hitter, I know he swings and misses a lot, but he’s still a dangerous hitter.”
“I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it,” Fedde said of the curve to Báez. “Honestly, I thought I executed it out of my hand, and then I looked back at the film and it was just exactly where you don’t want to throw him a breaking ball, so it’s unfortunate, but I think for the most part that pitch was really good, and that was one of my only bad ones.”
Did he, maybe, lean on the curveball a little too much, throwing it 37% and 38% of the time in his last two starts, up from a season average of 18%?
“I think he kind of liked it his last outing, he threw a lot today, sometimes by design because we know these guys do chase a lot, but he also does have a good fastball, and he can pitch in and out with it, and he has a good cutter too,” Martinez said.
“I thought he threw the cutter fairly well today, didn’t throw it as much, but he threw it well.
“We’ll have a conversation with him these next couple days and kind of once again talk to him about who he is and what he does well, and the curveball could be effective, but he can’t just lean on his curveball all the time, he’s got to mix in his fastball.”