This writeup is just a highlight with some observations from Zach Britton‘s start yesterday. This is not a report because you need to see a few appearances before hitting a mark on how he might address himself in the future.
The overall performance from the box score was a bit less than stellar, but he is finally healthy and making his mark again with the parent club. If I dig a bit deeper, I see a few things that I feel would be useful in making him a consistent starter with the Orioles.
Shoulder issues are never a thing to sneeze at for pitchers, as any shoulder problem has a good chance of requiring an operation. Even with rest and rehabilitation, there is a good chance that a 93 mph fastball will turn into an 88 mph fastball with a shoulder injury. Britton was throwing gas and everything was thrown with conviction. He showed no mental stresses or concerns with his arm, so he is back and able to handle the rigors of pitching.
His initial foot placement last season was mid-left toe on the rubber and sometimes this led him to cross over his body to throw. He is now set about two-three inches off the third base side of the rubber and it is a starting point that allows him to work downhill more naturally.
His sinking two-seam fastball was working its action. It showed better life as the outing continued. His two-seam fastball with sink should be a ground ball producer and solid point of emphasis in his overall development in the future.
His slider looked to get more horizontal action at times and played well off his sinker in few at bats. Its drop was not as crisp last season, and the action works off better with the sinker. This grip gives him a pitch that differs from the sinker both in plane and speed, and should help him produce more swings and misses.
His new delivery, I personally feel, is not conducive to correct his prior arm injury. The stride is slight longer right now, but no where near long enough. His release is too upright for my taste. This combination gives him a quasi-catapult delivery where his arm slings through the zone. I would like to see a better push and lower half foundation.
When you make the lower half do a majority of the work, it maintains consistent arm actions, a cleaner release, and a safer delivery for the arm.
Britton’s arm on the follow through tends to ride to the hip. I did not see it jar last evening, but it was forceful and had a sudden stop a few times. I’d rather it be the natural down the line type, throwing to the target and letting gravity force the stop. It poses less stress on shoulder ligaments and it keeps pitchers from jarring against the hip, which opens up a whole can of worms.
His slider was too much of the backdoor variety, which is a Peterson trademark. The backdoor breaking pitch surely has its place in a pitcher’s arsenal and should be in the pocket every outing, but you just cannot fall in love with it as these are major league hitters that can time everything.
The backdoor slider can sometimes get flat, and that happens in most right hand hitters’ wheelhouses. I would rather see a nice blend and get him to throw that slider in the middle of the plate and have it ride in and saw off the right handed hitters. Seeing that horizontal movement, if the sinker is not playing, this pitch surely would be an effective offering. It keeps the hitter honest and thinking. When you have a hitter thinking, it is over.
The sinker is meant to be an “efficient” pitch, not a swing/miss out pitch. A sinker ball pitcher wants just enough bite to force the swing in the first or second pitch to induce the ground ball. He tended to fall in love and use the pitch as a way to have flailing swings. If you try to be too quiet with the bite, good hitters simply are going to stay away and take the ball, resulting in high pitch counts.
The change up was present, but I want to see this pitch mixed in more. I have wanted to see it mixed in ever since I first saw him, especially after his rookie season. I have always wanted to see a circle change be an effective dose in his overall arsenal. It runs against the grain of his sinker and seeing the newly gripped slider with more horizontal movement to the glove side, using a changeup more is now a must. I want to see this pitch increase, maybe up to 25% of his overall offerings.
Health of the shoulder is nothing to sneeze at. I may have problems with his delivery, but not everyone works the same way and not everyone has the correct answer to every pitcher. You hope the new little wrinkles are enough to stabilize the shoulder and allow the Orioles to keep a building block in the rotation.
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The numbers did not look great and the hitters did a solid job working him very hard. This is not the end game, nor is this a “send him back down”.
He showed some glimpses and hopefully some items get worked out. Maybe Adair gets him to work pitches into his arsenal more often. He has the foundation and mechanical issues aside, he has the ability to pitch effectively in the AL East.