Erick Fedde threw his curveball 26% of the the time in an August 17th start against Toronto’s Blue Jays, so when that number jumped to 37% in his August 24th outing against the Miami Marlins, it was noteworthy, and the 28-year-old, 2014 1st Round pick told reporters that he’d actually adopted left-handed reliever Sam Clay’s grip after looking at video of the southpaw and noting similarities between what the two of them were doing.
“I adopted the grip and it immediately clicked,” Fedde said. “I think the last four or five starts I’ve had more swings and misses on it, or bad takes, and ever since then it’s just been good, so I’m thankful for him.”
Fedde said he didn’t really change the way he threw the curve, just the grip.
“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.”
That night, going up against the Marlins, Fedde got 21 swings on the 37 curves he threw, and nine swinging strikes as well as three called strikes.
The next time out, against the New York Mets, Fedde threw his breaking ball 37% of the time, getting 21 swings, 11 swingings strikes, and six called strikes with the pitch, and in another start against the Mets five days later, he was down to 23%, more in line with his season average of around 20% curves, with three swinging strikes, and two called strikes.
September 9th against Atlanta, he was back up 38%, with 20 swings and nine whiffs on a total of 41 curves (out of 108 pitches).
Then going up against the Marlins again on September 14th, Fedde threw his curveball 39% of the time, with 20 swings, nine whiffs, and six called strikes, and he said afterwards it was fine with him throwing it that often, in terms of the volume.
“I think the success with it on righties and lefties has been really nice,” Fedde said. “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.”
In his third start in a few weeks against Miami this past Monday, Fedde was up to 41% curves on the night, with 17 swings, five swinging strikes, and eight called strikes with the pitch.
With 37%, 39%, and 41% in his last three starts against the Marlins, that’s clearly by design, and something that Fedde and the Nats thought would work against their NL East rivals.
Overall on the year though, he’s still at 22.4% curveballs, 23.4% cutters, and 42.4% sinkers, with opposing hitters hitting .330 on the sinker, .229 on the cutter, and .188 on the curve, with Jesús Sánchez and Jazz Chisholm, Jr. hitting the third and fourth home runs on it this season in the series opener in Miami.
[ed. note - “Fedde has also thrown 10.2% changeups this season, with a .200 BAA on the pitch, and 1.6% four-seam fastballs, .444 BAA.”]
“So yesterday by design we wanted to throw more curveballs,” manager Davey Martinez said of Fedde’s pitch selection against the Marlins this time out.
“We didn’t want to throw that many, I think he went to it a little more than we really wanted, but it’s a pitch that he really likes, he throws it two different speeds, but we definitely don’t want him to throw it that much.”
Especially, the fourth-year skipper said, at the expense of some of his other pitches.
“His two-seamer, for me it’s been — when you’re throwing that many curveballs — you can throw [the two-seamer] down and away to lefties, and it can be effective as well, so that’s something that — a conversation we’ll have with him today.
“I know by design you want to throw curveballs, but when you’re throwing 3-4 in a row, the hitters get to see them consistently, if you leave one up, as we saw yesterday, they can go a long way.
“That’s something that [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey I know was going to address with him today, but we want to see him attacking the strike zone a lot more with his fastball, 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, he opted to go to the curveball, but like I said, this is something that Hickey is going to address with him today.”