Pitchers tend to have a lot of downtime during games.
Whether it’s sitting in the bullpen and trying to stay loose while waiting for a phone call to warm up or chilling in the dugout between starts, they spend plenty of time watching teammates work their craft.
To gauge how Chicago Cubs pitchers view their teammates’ best stuff, 12 pitchers were posed a question: If you could take any pitch from someone on the pitching staff and add it to your repertoire, whose would you pick? It yielded a wide range of answers and reasoning. Some opted for a pitch that would work well off their other stuff or their delivery. Others just wanted what they thought was a sick pitch. Ultimately, seven pitches were selected.
Kyle Hendricks’ changeup
Chosen by RHP David Robertson, LHP Justin Steele, LHP Wade Miley, RHP Adrian Sampson and LHP Brandon Hughes
Unsurprisingly, Hendricks’ changeup was the runaway favorite among Cubs pitchers, regardless of their handedness, pitching style or role. And for good reason. Hendricks’ changeup was one of the best pitches in baseball during his best years, and it’s still a weapon for the right-hander.
“The late movement and then his ability to make it look like his fastball for 99% of the time and the swings they take,” Sampson said. “Everybody in the building knows it’s coming and they still can’t hit it, so something’s right. He’s a lucky guy for having it.”
Robertson didn’t hesitate when making his choice, calling Hendricks’ changeup a no-doubt pick: “I’d give anything to be able to throw a changeup. It’s like a game-changer. It goes this way and you don’t throw it hard. Yeah, 100% I want it. If I can throw it even a halfway decent changeup … definitely want something that goes the other way of all the crap that I throw.”
Miley likes the movement on Hendricks’ changeup instead of wanting to add a high-velocity fastball, adding, “That’s overrated.”
Justin Steele’s four-seam fastball
Chosen by LHP Drew Smyly
Steele has been throwing his fastball at a high rate, increasing its usage from earlier in the season.
He largely has done a good job limiting much damage off the pitch. It took until his 17th start to allow a homer off it.
“It’s an anomaly, nobody throws it like he does,” Smyly said. “He has this insane cut action to his fastball. Hitters can’t touch it. Like, you can just throw it down the middle and they’re going to do much.”
Marcus Stroman’s slider
Chosen by RHP Mark Leiter Jr.
Stroman can go to a variety of options in any given start.
He has relied on five pitches this season, but his slider caught the eye of a teammate. Mark Leiter Jr. likes the movement Stroman gets on his slider. Entering Stroman’s start Friday against the San Francisco Giants, it’s his second-most used pitch. He’s generating a 27.8 Whiff% while hitters are managing a meager .220 average against and .260 Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA).
“He’s able to change the shape of it and have control on both sides of the plate with it,” Leiter said. “Being able to change the shapes for more of a called strike and then more of a swinging strike. The feel he has, the ability to manipulate it into making it more than just one pitch, I’ve always really enjoyed the way he’s able to use his slider.”
Keegan Thompson’s cutter
Chosen by RHP Scott Effross
Effross initially considered a high-velocity fastball — “I’d like to be able to throw 96 mph, that’d be cool to have in my bag” — as well as Thompson’s curveball, but, given Effross’ sidearm delivery, a 12-6 curve “doesn’t make much sense for me.” So, Effross narrowed his options to Thompson, Chris Martin or David Robertson’s cutter. He ultimately settled on Thompson’s, which has a 23.7 Whiff% as hitters struggle to barrel the pitch consistently.
“Cutters are cool and I think I could use it with my arm angle,” Effross said. “The way he’s been throwing it lately — he’s been throwing it for strikes and getting ahead with it. And if he can dot that thing down and away to a righty, I feel that’s just an impossible pitch to even attempt to swing at it.”
Mark Leiter Jr.’s splitter
Chosen by RHP Keegan Thompson, RHP Michael Rucker
When Leiter, currently at Triple-A Iowa, needs a strikeout, his splitter accomplishes that at an elite level. Leiter recorded 28 of his 40 strikeouts with the pitch, producing a 50.8 Whiff% and 36.4 PutAway%.
“He can land in the strike zone and he knows when to bury it for a swing and miss,” Thompson said. “He has a very good feel for it and can throw it wherever he wants to.”
Sampson praised Leiter’s splitter too. Leiter surrendered only three hits off the pitch for a .064 average and a .114 wOBA.
“The one pitch that jumps out for me the most because it’s a true nasty pitch,” Rucker said. “I don’t have a splitter in the mix. I don’t know how much my fingers would hold it. He really gets into that thing. But the action on that pitch and watching him throw it, I mean, he carved up (Boston) with it.”
Keegan Thompson’s slider
Chosen by RHP Kyle Hendricks
Hendricks stated that had Thompson not started incorporating a slider in the last month, he would have chosen his curveball “all day.” Miley also gave Thompson’s curveball a shout-out, calling it a “disgusting” pitch.
Despite it being a new pitch, Thompson’s slider has been wildly effective. He has not allowed a hit off 51 sliders thrown, predominately against right-handed hitters, while producing an eye-popping 50% swing-and-miss rate.
Hendricks, expounding on his choice, said: “The elite level of spin and such bad swings he gets on it, he can use it in the zone, gets out in the zone with it pretty much whenever he wants. It’s just such an effective pitch. I would love to know what that feels like.”
David Robertson’s cutter
Chosen by RHP Chris Martin
Robertson is throwing fewer cutters than last season, when he returned after a long layoff from Tommy John surgery, and he’s has seen an uptick in velocity, sitting at 93.3 mph. The pitch has a .211 average against, and his ability to command it sets up his curveball and slider to put hitters away.
“The ball never comes down, it kind of gets on you real quick and it’s an elite pitch,” Martin said of Robertson’s cutter. “It’d be nice to have in the back pocket. I mean, shoot, everybody’s got such good stuff that I could change out all of my stuff.”
Source: Berkshire mont