Still Curious about Jarred Cosart

We have been asked about Jarred Cosart once or twice for the podcast, and I have fielded a question or two about him in chats. At the time Eno addressed him on the podcast, he basically called Cossart a hurler about whom he’d have trouble becoming excited, because command and control have so persistently been problems for the right-hander. I have harbored some fascination with the right-hander for a few years, but I couldn’t really disagree.

I’ve become a tad more interested, again, now that he’s back with a Senior Circuit organization. Cosart’s “stuff” just intrigues me, as it does many; otherwise, he wouldn’t have been at least somewhat well-regarded by multiple organizations at one time or another. The issues he’s had with command threaten to be of the career-long variety because they’re rooted in that stuff. But I wonder a little about how crazy the stuff might be, perhaps unlike any others’ stuff, and if that isn’t the beauty of Cosart. It’s a catch-22, with insanity the only likely outcome, surely.

Cosart’s stuff is, reportedly, rooted in a seemingly simple three-pitch mix. His arsenal is comprised of a fastball (which has averaged 93.6 mph this year and is often accompanied by adjectives such as “superb”), curveball (a perpetually potential plus pitch) and changeup (another offering with real upside, something it hasn’t consistently displayed).

The Uncle Charlie and change piece still appear to be works-in-progress. Both pitches have improved, however. He’s exhibited better command of the curve, and it has resulted in better location and more ground balls (63.7%), although it still doesn’t get swings and misses. (Cosart recently appeared in August’s “An Ode to the Hanging Curve,” at which time the writer marveled – it wasn’t all compliment – at the kind of results the pitcher has achieved with his deuce.) The changeup, albeit in small doses, has induced more swinging strikes (from 7.4% last year to 15.9% this season).

Cosart’s hard fastball, his calling card and the pitch on which he relies heavily, may not produce the kind of inspiring PITCHf/x readings you expect, however, at least at first glance. But it shouldn’t surprise you to see that it’s nothing more than average in terms of swinging strikes. It’s also above-average in terms of grounders, primarily because of its natural movement.

This heater is, apparently, kind of a tamed beast. In any of the typical scouting profiles found on the Interwebs, such as those as those at Minor League Ball and Baseball Prospectus, as well as Marc Hulet’s, it’s classified as merely a fastball. It’s not a sinking fastball or a cut fastball. It’s just a fastball. But pitch-type classification systems seem to have some serious trouble with this numero uno. Brooks Baseball regularly classifies it as a cutter, but it sometimes calls it something else. From start to start at FanGraphs, it’s categorized as a four-seamer, cutter and sinker, with percentages of each fluctuating, occasionally wildly and the edge going to four-seamer.

There’s multiplicity or confusion in the classification sets of other pitchers’ fastballs, too. Many hurlers purposely throw more than one type of fastball, obviously. Some pitchers’ heaters have the kind of movement that can fool PITCHf/x and the like sometimes, as well. But of this nature, it seems to be odd. Among qualifiers, Cosart’s “four-seamer” has little horizontal but decent vertical movement. His “cutter” has significant horizontal and OK vertical movement. His “sinker” has modest horizontal and lackluster vertical movement. There are some pretty good hurlers among those who, according to those PITCHf/x groups, throw all three of those pitches.

But they’re all the same pitch, it seems, for Cossart. Is that its essence, its beauty? The pitch he’s always commanded very well is predictably unpredictable? The catcher puts down one sign, and the result can be any of three, or maybe more accurately, a hybrid? Still something the backstop can block, catch and frame, but not to which the hitter can pick up easily, knowingly? Is that what can consistently lead to weak contact against him, a below-league-average BABIP versus him?

Cosart throws hard. He generates ground balls – more than 55% of his batted-ball results in his 194 2/3 major league innings. Home run suppression has really never been a problem. Maybe it won’t stick, but his control has improved, substantially, since Year 1. He just doesn’t record many strikeouts. As Marc Hulet’s 2012-13 Houston Astros prospects entry noted, Cosart’s progress as this type of pitcher was increasingly encouraging to the organization, according to the writer’s contact. Perhaps Cosart won’t develop a true strikeout pitch, the way Podhorzer hopes, but the pitcher might be dynamite if the changeup develops to the point that he’d be confident to throw it 10% of the time or more. Or he found a substitute.

Perhaps you understand, then, why people like me hang on. Perhaps this is a misguided inquiry, with a circular or aimless or inconsequential answer. Perhaps I’m making something of nothing.

I really want to pick up Cosart in Mixed Tout Wars Draft, a 15-team mixed league, where I’m desperate for decent pitching. And where it’s too late to make much of a difference anyway, so I may as well. I’m a little surprised that no one has, I guess, but then again, no one is as desperate as me anymore. I put in a contingent bid for him during what appeared to be his two-turn week against the St. Louis Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks, but a) the Fish have had Brad Hand and Brad Penny make starts in some kind of pseudo-six-man-rotation thing, so Cosart missed the Snakes, and b) I didn’t win him, so, whatever. (Someone else made a contingent bid for him this past week, which helps me to feel as if I’m not alone.) Upcoming matchups with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and, probably, the enigmatic but suddenly resurgent Atlanta Braves have me a little wary, though.

I can’t help but wonder whether Cosart, 24, will eventually become a considerably better pitcher or remain this perplexing tease. I’d like to see Eno interview the guy, just to read what the pitcher has to say about that stuff. And maybe to satisfy my curiosity.

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Nicholas Minnix oversaw baseball content for six years at KFFL, where he held the loose title of Managing Editor for seven and a half before he joined FanGraphs. He's played in both Tout Wars and LABR since 2010. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasMinnix.

One Response to “Still Curious about Jarred Cosart”

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  1. sadf says:

    In Cosart’s last start his changeup looked good and he was throwing it more than usual. After he struck a guy out with it the Marlins broadcasters talked about it and they said he lacked confidence in it but that maybe now he will use it more. THey also said that in a previous game, each time Cosart shook off the call it resulted in a hit, and that Cosart said he will now trust his catcher’s calls.

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