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What happened to Deivi Garcia’s curveball?

Our young prince Deivi Garcia had his worst start over the weekend against the Red Sox, only lasting 3 innings and giving up 6 runs. This type of start will happen for any young pitcher, and it’s worth looking into how Deivi has been attacking hitters.

Pitch Mix

Garcia throws four pitches – a fastball, curveball, changeup, and slider. This graph shows his pitch % by start:

You can clearly see the two trends here. First, he has been throwing his fastball more. In that start against Boston, he threw it 63% of the time. Second, his changeup has overtaken his curve as the most frequent off-speed pitch.  This is interesting because the curve is Deivi’s calling card. Coming up through the minors, he was known to have a hammer curve.

In looking deeper at the data, it’s clear Deivi has not had his good curveball the last few outings. In his two most recent starts, he did not get a single whiff on a curve. Compare that to his first two starts in which he got a 37.5% and 66.7% whiff rate on his curveball.

The spin rates also back up the idea that Garcia has not had a good feel on his curve.

Look at the drop in spin rate on the curve in his most recent starts. He’s gone from getting over 2800 rpm on the curve to just over 2500 rpm. It’s unclear what would cause such a drop, and it’s worth monitoring for the rest of the year and into next season because higher spin rate on a curve leads to more effectiveness.

Location, Location, Location

The other component is location. If Deivi doesn’t have good feel for his breaking balls, they likely won’t go where he wants them to. This chart lays it out:

This chart shows the curveball and slider locations of Deivi’s last two starts, which was when he started going heavy on the fastball and light on the breaking pitches. You can clearly see he’s struggling locating these pitches. There are too many curves and sliders right over the middle of the plate and too many way out of the zone that are uncompetitive. That’s why nobody is swinging and missing. They’re either too easy to hit or too easy to lay off of.

Release Point

After Garcia’s first start, we and other outlets pointed out that Deivi does not have a consistent release point. Specifically, he releases his curveball about 6” higher than he does on his fastball. At the time, I pointed out this was worth monitoring to see if batters start to pick up on it. And that’s another explanation for why Deivi has been unsuccessful with the curveball and why he’s not getting any whiffs on it.

The blue dots are the curveballs still released higher than anything else. The fastball, slider, and changeup are all more or less in the same spot. Perhaps Garcia noticed batters could tell when he was throwing his curve based on that so he started throwing it less often. If he needs to make a mechanical adjustment to throw all his pitches from the same spot, that likely won’t happen until the offseason. For now, let’s see if Deivi continues to shy away from his curve or finds a way to still drop the hammer like we know he can.

You can contact Rohan on Twitter @rohanarcot20