Jacob Arrieta and Wade Davis are both aged 24, right-handed, and rookie starting pitchers cutting their teeth in the frenzied American League East. Neither is recording the kind of whiffs their stuff would seemingly demand – as David Golebiewski covered with regards to Davis just a few days ago – and they share something else in common: their inability to finish batters after getting ahead 0-2.
It seems odd to discuss that attribute of pitchers with an FIP over 5.00 apiece. After all, isn’t the problem that they simply don’t get ahead enough? Well, no. As it turns out, Davis and Arrieta both go 0-2 on 25% of their plate appearances; that figure places them within the top 20 of American League pitchers- more often than Jon Lester, James Shields, John Danks, and equal to Felix Hernandez – worthwhile company, to say the least.
Davis is actually just behind David Price for the best rate amongst Rays’ starting pitchers, while Arrieta leads the Orioles’ staff. League average is 23%, so both get to the optimal pitcher’s count at a steadier rate than a good number of their peers. The issue, though, is finishing. Golebiewski noted how Davis used his heater more often in two strike counts than league average, and while Arrieta doesn’t have that issue when it comes to non 0-2 counts, he does rely heavily on his fastball on 0-2 counts.
The results are Davis striking out batters after 0-2 counts less than 31% of the time while Arrieta is at a modest 35%. Compare that to some of the better pitchers in the American League, like Cliff Lee and Jered Weaver (45%) or David Price (44%) and the youngster’s strikeout rates look subpar. Major League average is at 42% while American League average is nearly identical.
Causation and correlation aren’t always bedmates and one of the byproducts of being a good pitcher is finishing batters after getting ahead- meaning it’s no surprise that bad pitchers struggle to finish while good pitchers excel at it. The issue just seems like a case where young pitchers need to make adjustments. That’s good news for these youngsters, although it could quickly turn sour if either fails to make those required adjustments in a reasonable frame of time.
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