The Saga of Dan Straily’s Slider Continues Today

Dan Straily has fewer than 200 innings pitched in the bigs. In the minors, he struck hitters out like hotcakes, but that hasn’t translated to the major league level, for his career K/9 is merely serviceable at 7.33. A 90 mph fastball is far from overpowering, and–in addition to a “Young Dad Moustache“–that’s what Straily has. (Sadly, the moustache is gone now.) Despite a 20% line drive rate this season, hitters are somehow hitting only .266 on balls in play against Straily. He doesn’t induce grounders: of all 96 pitchers with at least 150 IP this season, seven have lower groundball rates. Two of those pitchers are A’s teammates Tommy Milone and A.J. Griffin. With the above information, we can safely surmise the A’s are targeting flyball pitchers for spacious O.co, rangy outfielders tracking down all things fair and infielders running free in the vast fields afoul. That strategy of defense-dependent pitching works when the ball is kept within the defense’s grasp. Straily did a good job of that this season after an abysmal time in 2012; his rate of home runs per flyball was halved from 16.7 to 8.2 percent, the latter figure being slightly better than the league average.

Numbers, numbers, numbers. Anyone with both the internet and inclination can find those, and while they may give you a good portrait of Straily, they say little about Straily’s chances in today’s start. After all, he’s pitching in Comerica Park, subject to a different run-scoring environment, against a team known for it’s above-average power. How will Straily try to neutralize Detroit? Let’s start with their lineup:

  1. Austin Jackson, R
  2. Torii Hunter, R
  3. Miguel Cabrera, R
  4. Prince Fielder, L
  5. Victor Martinez, S
  6. Jhonny Peralta, R
  7. Alex Avila, L
  8. Omar Infante, R
  9. Jose Iglesias, R

Six righties, three lefties, as far as Straily is concerned. Straily has two fastballs, four-seam and two-seam, and just two other pitches, a slider and a changeup. Generally speaking, pitchers throw the slider to same-handed hitters and develop the changeup as an out pitch against opposites. This is true for Straily, but the extent to which he throws his slider to righties is extreme.

Percentage of Pitches thrown that are sliders, 2013 season:

  • Overall – 27.49%
  • vs. RHB – 40.91%
  • vs. RHB w/2 strikes – 54.89%
  • vs. RHB w/full count – 31.82%

When he wants to get righties out, Straily throws the slider twice as much as usual. Even when the count is full and he needs a strike, his slider usage increases. I don’t know Straily’s mind, so I dare not say that the slider is his favorite pitch, but I do dare say that the slider is the most important pitch for Straily tonight. It’s still the top of the first, so here’s your first look at it today:

trumbok

Click to animate and embiggen.

That’s perfect location, but not at all uncommon for Straily. Here’s Brooks Baseball’s zone profile of Straily’s slider this season, showing how well Straily keeps the ball down and away from right handers.

WOW THAT’S COOL. On Twitter, I will be tracking Straily’s slider. Follow me, internet/no one.

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