Matt Shoemaker dominated the White Sox this past Saturday. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim right-hander threw a complete-game, six-hit shutout while walking no one and striking out a season high 13. Per Brooks Baseball, 58 of the 114 pitches Shoemaker threw were splitters, 49 were either two- or four-seam fastballs, and seven were sliders.
The splitter usage jumps out even more than the pitching line. Shoemaker throws his signature offering 35% of the time — the most of any starter — but Saturday’s 50%-plus ratio was akin to that of relievers like Koji Uehara, Hector Neris and Zach Putnam. A heavy diet of splitters for nine innings is highly atypical.
Just last month, Jeff Sullivan wrote about Shoemaker’s increased reliance on the pitch, and how it has helped him to elevate his game. Intrigued by the article, and having recently written about Putnam, a longtime friend of Shoemaker’s, I went directly to the source for further information. It turns out that the splitter is only part of the reason he’s been pitching as well as he has.
Shoemaker, who has a 2.37 ERA over his last 11 starts, shared his thoughts on the subject in early July.
Shoemaker on upping his mental game: “The biggest thing for me has been a mental adjustment. There are small mechanical things I’ve worked on in bullpens, like trying to keep my weight back, but it’s more of a mental thing. Every time I go out there, I need to have good intent with every pitch. Every one needs to have a purpose. When you focus that way, you’re more aggressive and there’s more behind the ball. There’s no fussing around.