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.