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Astros: First Impressions of the Starting Rotation’s Pitch Allocation

Discover the Astros Starting Pitch Allocation insights for 2024! Uncover the strategic pitch usage changes and their impact on the rotation's performance.


By ClintTheScout


Larry's Note: I will have a very similar take this afternoon in "Astros Shocker: They are BETTER Than Last Year." Buckle up folks. Stuff like what Clint shares below is WHY you have the LarryTheGM website.


Ronel Blanco’s no-hitter piqued my interest in pitch selection and allocation for this season. We have seen a bit of a different approach from the starting rotation so far this season, and it led me to further analyze it.


Let’s notate the current rotation: Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Hunter Brown, J.P. France and Ronal Blanco. When you read those names, power pitching doesn’t come to mind, right? Valdez has been known to create into the upper-90s with his sinker, and Brown has that extra gear when needed. However, it’s not their style.


I want us to look at each of their pitch usages compared to 2023. Now, before you react by saying, “How can you compare one start to all of 2023?”, I want to reassure you I will be updating this throughout the season to see how the usage changes and what we can learn from applying that to the results.


Framber is a groundball pitcher by default. His pitch selection is geared to soft contact and defensive games, so when reviewing the pitch usage, it wasn’t surprising to see it stay steady with 2023 numbers.


Valdez

 

Valdez

Looking back at Javier’s start, I saw a lot of tweets about his changeup, a pitch he rarely used in 2023.


Javier


Javier

Over a quarter of his total pitches from his first start were changeups. I believe this was a conscious effort by the front office and coaching staff to help extend the starting pitchers into games. Javier had a great first game of the season due to the usage and effectiveness of the curveball.


Hunter Brown stayed pretty consistent to his 2023 pitch usage. The most noticeable part would be how much he used the spliter. That may have been a result of just how difficult it was for him to work through the Yankees lineup and get outs.


J.P. France profiles a pitcher with good stuff, a multiple array of pitches that grade above average. He seemed to pitch well but fell short of being able to navigate the lineup a 3rd time around.


France


France

The hero of the rotation so far, Ronel Blanco, amazed us with his no-hitter on Monday. Larry has high hopes for him in 2024, and he delivered in a big spot as the Astros started off slow against the Yankees. Blanco’s massive shift to using his changeup was paramount to his success Monday night. Yainer Diaz emphasized how valuable that pitch was to his ability to produce that outing.


Blanco


Blanco

Blanco turned to his changeup over a third of the time on Monday. That's a large deviation from what he did in 2023. He mainly used slider and fastball but making that change clearly yielded a brilliant outcome.


So, reviewing the data, to see the two starters who had the most success in their first starts, who also used the changeup more than ever before is shocking right? Typically, I would say yes, because it seemed to be a trend that the pitchers would lean on their best pitches and rely on them in high-leverage situations. However, that was not the case at all. This is the reason to track this in 2024, as it will give us insight on the evolution of the pitchers.


The front office and coaching staff clearly identified where Javier and Blanco can take a step forward in their progression as pitchers. This will add more depth to their repertoire and give them more options down the stretch. As cliché as I will make this sound, some of the art of pitching may be coming back.


I think they’ve realized who they are as pitching staff. The rotation is comprised of solid pitching, with the ability to go through the lineup twice, with upside for more. The bullpen, most notably the back end, is where power-pitching lives. The Astros have pitch-to-contact from Framber Valdez, an aging Justin Verlander and the others who rely on their off-speed stuff to help their fastball play up in big moments.


I’m looking forward to seeing the data as we move through the season. Framber had a great start last night, and that will give us more to talk about when we update for the second time through the rotation.


***Credit to Baseball Savant for the data used in this article.***


Astros: First Impressions of the Starting Rotation’s Pitch Allocation

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