Erick Fedde struck out a career-high ten batters when he faced the Miami Marlins down in Florida back on August 24th, holding the home team in loanDepot park to a run on six hits and a walk in a 6 1⁄3-inning, 103-pitch outing for the 28-year-old, 2014 1st Round pick.
“I think the pregame talk was it was a very aggressive team,” Fedde explained after a 5-1 win for the Washington Nationals in that game, “... and being able to land breaking balls and cutters early in the count, I think got me into a lot of 0-2, 1-2 counts, where I could go after the punchouts and I think just landing those early in the counts was working well for me.”
Fedde threw his breaking ball 38 times overall (for 37% of his 103 total pitches, up from a season-average of 17.6% at the time), generating 21 swings and nine swinging strikes with that pitch, and he recorded three called strikes with it as well, with his manager saying he thought was the best curveball he’d seen Fedde throw.
“He was pounding the strike zone, but his breaking ball was really, really, really on tonight,” Davey Martinez told reporters.
“He had a great game, he did really well, pounded the strike zone like I said, he was able to throw strikes when he needed to, which was huge, so good day for him.”
In three starts that followed, before Fedde took on the Marlins again last night, the right-hander struggled, to the tune of an 8.16 ERA, a 6.44 FIP, and a .349/.377/.667 line against over 14 1⁄3 IP.
Bench coach Tim Bogar, filling in as the Nationals’ skipper after Martinez had a follow-up procedure on his recently surgically-repaired ankle, talked before last night’s start about Fedde following the same game plan from the previous outing against the Fish.
“He pitched well against these guys last time out,” Bogar explained, “... so this is the second time in a quick turnaround for him against this team, and just trying to get ahead with these guys and not fall behind. You know, I guess the last time he pitched, I believe his breaking ball was really good against these guys. I think it matches up well with them so we’re going to try to stick to that game plan and see if it continues to work, and he can always go back to his patented sinker and get the ground balls that he needs.
“We’re hoping that he continues the same thing that he did the last time that he faced these guys.”
As for his patented sinker, and the ground balls he gets with it, Martinez talked during a run of scoreless innings Fedde put together back in June, in one of his best runs in the majors, about preaching to the pitcher about focusing on generating ground ball outs, and about him being at his best when he does.
“His ground ball rate, which I always preach to him, he should be a ground ball guy,” Martinez said at the time.
“He should be getting a lot of ground balls, a lot of weak contact ground balls.”
Going into last night’s start, however, Fedde had the lowest ground ball percentage so far in his career, at 49%, down from career average of 51.7%, and from his 61.7 GB% in his first year in the majors in 2017, 53.1% in 2018, 51% in 2019, and 54.2% in 2020’s 60-game campaign.
“I think a lot of it has to do with his offspeed stuff,” Bogar said when asked about Fedde’s GB% being down this season. “He’s been successful with it, and he’s gotten a lot of outs with it, and he’s been more consistent with that, so he hasn’t had to rely on throwing that sinker down and away and getting those ground balls.
“He’s also been ahead a lot more than he has in the past. From my memory, last year he would fall behind 2-0, 2-1 on guys and he would have to throw that sinker in there to get back in the count, and now he’s capable of throwing his offspeed stuff, his [curveball], his changeup, and his cutter, and that sets him up to be able to throw any pitch at any time, and I think it’s helped him out quite a bit.”
Fedde held the Marlins to a run on three hits this time around, giving up a solo shot on a 95 MPH 3-2 fastball in the top of the fifth, which ended up being a long, 31-pitch frame which ended his outing. He threw 39% curves this time for Fedde, up from 37% last time vs Miami, and got 20 swings, nine whiffs, and six called strikes with the pitch in what ended up an 8-2 win for Washington.
“They’re a fastball-hitting team,” Bogar said in discussing why Fedde’s curve and offspeed stuff is so effective against Miami’s hitters. “If you see, [Lewin] Diaz hit two fastballs out to the moon, you know, so we got to keep them off-balance and be able to throw strikes with our breaking ball and then get them to chase, so Fedde did a good job of that, I thought he mixed in his cutter a little bit later as the game went on a little bit too, effectively, got a strikeout with it, so good job with his offspeed stuff.”
“I think he throws his offspeed stuff for strikes when he needs to, and when he does that it keep them off-balance,” Bogar added, “so I think it’s a very good matchup for him, and he’s been able to take advantage of it.”
Fedde said once again he was really happy with the results on his curveball and what a weapon it has become for him.
“I think the success with it on righties and lefties has been really nice,” he explained.
“Really been able to backdoor it to the left-handers to steal strikes ... and I think it’s just to keep the confidence with it, I think it’s obviously I’ve seen it be successful, and just kind of want to build off of that.
“I’m okay throwing it with that percentage, and I think it makes everything else better if you have to sit on a slower pitch every once in a while.”