Schmidt Happens

For the first time in two years, Jason Schmidt took the hill for the Dodgers last night. The first inning was a disaster, as he gave up three runs to the Reds, but he settled down after that and got through five innings. They couldn’t have been expecting much more, given the long road he’s had to travel to get back from arm problems that derailed his career. But what should the Dodgers expect from Schmidt going forward?

Brooks Baseball‘s Pitch F/x log shows that Schmidt’s fastball averaged just under 87 MPH and topped out at 89.5. His change-up was 82-85, showing little separation in velocity, though his 71-73 MPH curve gave him a change of speed pitch.

All of these velocities are way off of Schmidt’s days in San Francisco. In 2006, his last healthy year, his fastball averaged 92, his change-up 87, and his curve 78. He’s lost nearly five MPH off all three of his pitches. Getting hurt sucks.

So, with his power gone, Schmidt’s simply not going to be able to rack up the strikeouts like he used to. He’s going to have to pound the strike zone, avoid walks, and count on balls in play finding gloves. The problem, though, is that Schmidt was up in the zone all night. Here’s the strikezone plot.


The pitch-to-contact thing works with an 87 MPH fastball if you can command it and get a bunch of groundouts, but that’s nearly impossible when you’re pitching at the belt or higher. Not surprisingly, Schdmit only induced three ground balls last night, compared with 13 fly balls. You can’t get grounders by throwing an 87 MPH fastball up in the zone. That location worked when he threw 92 – not so much now.

If Schmidt is going to succeed in the majors, he’s going to have to re-invent himself. Try a two-seamer to get some sink on his fastball, pitch down in the zone, and try to become a strike thrower who lets his defense do the work. Because based on what he showed last night, the Jason Schmidt of old isn’t coming back, and he’s not going to get hitters out by trying to replicate his old game plan without the juice on his fastball.

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

25 Responses to “Schmidt Happens”

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  1. Joe Morgan says:

    Off the juice. Down goes the velocity, down goes the K-rate.

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    • Death to All Lying Things says:

      Ahhh, the Eric Gagne rationale…

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    • B says:

      Seriously, age and injuries couldn’t possibly be the cause…

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    • joser says:

      Seriously, this is becoming the laziest rote “analysis” ever. Sandy Koufax declined? Must’ve gone off the juice. Satchel Paige in his final years? Stopped using PEDs. Mark Fidrych’s one amazing season? Obviously steroid-enhanced.

      Without any facts to back it up, it adds nothing to the discussion except scurrilous aspersions.

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      • Hank Steinbrenner says:

        so are you refuting the theory based on the fact that it is irrational when applied to non-steroid era players?

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      • joser says:

        No, I’m saying the theory gives us no additional information; applying it to non-steroid era players is just a reductio ad absurdum to illustrate that point. The “juicing’ theory fits but so does “aging and injuries,” as those non-steroid era players demonstrate. And it’s not like anyone here needs to be introduced to the juicing theory (“My goodness, I never would have thought of that.”) So posting a comment that offers nothing more than the juicing theory is rather pointless (and seeing it repeated endlessly is rather tiresome). We might as well just have a “Of course he might have been juicing…” comment automatically appended to every post about a player who has declined. And if it’s possible to replace the commenter that easily, perhaps you’d agree he’s contributing embarassingly little to the discussion.

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  2. Considering how long the road back (and forth) has been, this is a disappointing result. He was never a ground ball pitcher, but he better become one in the next four days.

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  3. Wild Thing says:

    Maybe his best tool will be fear. He could send out his pitch plot to the next team and all the RHBs will be fearful of taking one in the face and the LHBs will be worried about taking several off their knees.

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    • Joe Morgan says:

      i think you are misunderstanding the graphs a bit. allow me to explain. those graphs include pitches to both left and right handed batters. Lol, so this means that the pitches in the upper left hand corner are not neccesarily at the heads of rightys and vice versa with those in the lower right.

      I hope this clears up your confusion! ttyl

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  4. B says:

    Schmidty will always be a true Giant. If he can’t help us anymore, hurting the Dodgers is the next best thing…

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  5. cowdisciple says:

    “scurrilous aspersions” — 10 word nerd points.

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  6. DC says:

    The velocity between his change and fastball was always very slight. Although it’s probably different when it’s 96 and 91 rather than 87 and 82.

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  7. Matt B, says:

    Wonder what they are willing to give up for Halladay?

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  8. david ferris says:

    I would have gone with “About Schmidt.”

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  9. Dave says:

    Time for operation Ned to initiate phase II and sign him to an extension.

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  11. and when i haz cheescburgers i get bloated :X LOL

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