Blue Jays pitching coach, Pete Walker- Creidt: DaveMe Images

The Blue Jays’ Love of the Slider

The Toronto Blue Jays are an organization that wants its pitchers to be able to throw sliders and so far 2022 has seen a lot of them


Featured Images Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase


 


The Toronto Blue Jays have increased their efforts in obtaining pitchers with good swing and miss ‘stuff’. Whether it is an electric fastball with excellent movement, or a wipeout slider, they are looking for the good old whiff. We’ve seen them take a chance on Robbie Ray and his ability to pile up the strike outs and turn him into a Cy Young winner a season later. We also see it at the development stage as well. But, is it paying off for them?

 

Recently, Blue Jays pitching prospect, ranked 4th in their organization and 98th in baseball, Ricky Tiedemann told Gerard Gilberto that he began his pro career with Toronto focusing on his slider:

MiLB.com: What went into developing that slider?

Tiedemann: I think the Blue Jays are a big sweeper org. They want guys to have good sweep on their slider. Just working out of the complex right after I got drafted for those couple months, I was just working on that a lot. Just throwing it, honestly. The more I threw it, the more I had feel a for it.

 

The work on his slider has clearly paid off for the 19 yr old 2021 Draft pick as he is sporting a rather shiny 4-1 record with a 1.41 ERA, a WHIP of 0.72 and 68 strike outs in 44.2 innings. His comment on the slider sparked an interest in looking into if the Blue Jays are enjoying the focus on their slider love affair. We’ll focus on the big league club, since the best metrics, etc are available for them. Obviously, when limiting myself to the big league club, we don’t get a full picture of development, etc, but we can get some insight into the pitchers they are paying the most money to. Looking at these will tell us how much they think the slider is the way to get their opponents out.

 

For those not overly familiar with the slider, here is some info from SliderDomination.com, which offers a clear explanation: “is a sharp breaking pitch, when thrown correctly, explodes devastatingly, down and away from a hitter. The Slider looks like a fastball, until the batter goes to swing…..and the ball disappears out of the strike zone. The Slider is thrown with fastball arm speed.  Finger pressure, the grip and the hand angle on the release give the Slider it’s devastating break. The Slider is an easier pitch to throw because it is thrown with fastball arm speed and the fastball mindset until the end.” It is thrown to get swinging strikes.

 

In order to look into the slider usage, we’ll use Fangraphs’ Pitch Info usage rates.

 

There are some interesting observations to be made from these numbers. Firstly, it is not exactly clear what to make of the fact that Hyun Jin Ryu and David Phelps have not thrown the slider this year. It could be that they’re both 35 and haven’t ever thrown it before. But, more interesting than that is that nearly every pitcher is throwing it more than they have previously.

 

For example, Trent Thornton is throwing twice as much as he ever has at 36%. He’s only seen 20 innings this year, so not much of a sample to include in the chart above. However, the trend continues with Jordan Romano (up 9% this season), Trevor Richards (single year increase of 7.5%), Julian Merryweather, who has increased his usage in each of the last three seasons and Ross Stripling, who is seeing more slider usage than he has since 2018.

 

More than that, the Toronto Blue Jays traded for Jose Berrios, who hasn’t used his slider since 2019 and that was a rather insignificant 0.1% of the time. But, this season, he is using it 30% of the time. Considering the slider depends on a fastball delivery, but a change in grip, could that be why we’ve seen mixed results and poor(er) overall numbers this season? Is he having trouble adjusting to the increase? If Kevin Gausman, acquired this past offseason were experiencing the same thing, we would have our answer. However, he isn’t. His slider usage has nearly doubled year over year and he is having success with it. Could he be adjusting better than Berrios? Maybe. Perhaps a deeper dive into Berrios is in order on that one.

 

Regardless, what is very clear is that the Toronto Blue Jays are implementing an organizational focus on swing and miss stuff and emphasizing the slider. From their recent draft picks to their expensive free agents, they want their pitchers to use the slider.

 

 

 

 

*Featured Images Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.

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Shaun Doyle

Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.