- FanGraphs Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs -

Silva’s New Style

Carlos Silva continued his improbable run today with yet another solid performance, this time a seven inning, one run outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Silva struck out five and only walked one batter while inducing 10 ground balls in 20 balls in play, continuing from the template that made him a successful pitcher in 2004, 2005, and 2007: no walks and a healthy dose of ground balls.

Today’s start was yet another example in just how different Carlos Silva is pitching now compared to the rest of his career. Of course, the results have been much, much better this year than in the rrecent past, but instead I’m referring to how he is using his pitches.

Silva threw 102 pitches in today’s start, 55 of which were classified by Brooks Baseball’s Pitch F/X Tool as either fastballs or sinkers. Both pitches have very similar spin, movement, and velocity, so I think it would be fair to denote all 55 as “fastballs.” With that clarified, 53.9% of Silva’s pitches today were fastballs, well in line with his 57% fastball rate this season. That’s a stark change from the rest of his career. Silva never had a fastball rate lower than 68% entering this season, and in four separate seasons he used his fastball over 80% of the time, including his disastrous 2009 season.

It’s not terribly surprising, then, that his strikeouts have risen to above 6 K/9. Even with below average secondary stuff, the addition of more changeups and sliders is certain to increase the amount of whiffs. This change is likely the agent behind a nearly 3 point jump in swinging strike rate from his career mark. In particular, it’s his changeup which has been fantastic this season. It has been a strike over 70% of the time, and even though it’s nothing special in terms of whiff rate (12.4% vs. 12.63% average), it still manages to get outs, as the pitch had a +8.8 pitch type linear weights value entering play today. Brooks Baseball had it as excellent once again today, with a +2.2 mark.

It certainly appears that a big part of Silva’s rebirth can be attributed to this change in pitching style. Given Silva’s poor fastball, never breaking an average velocity of 92 since his rookie season, it’s surprising that it took this long to move away from it. Regardless, this shift has once again made Silva a major league pitcher. I would expect Silva’s numbers to fall a little as hitters begin to adjust to this new style, but as long as Silva continues to avoid walks and strike out more batters than ever, he will continue to enjoy success at the major league level.