Post-Game Report: Did Kevin Slowey Throw Too Many Fastballs?

I can't really answer that question, but the answer is "yes".

It's hard to hit a good fastball.  Just ask anyone who's ever had to toe in against Mariano Rivera.  But when Kevin Slowey went to his fastball on Wednesday night, did he go to it too often?  We already know what Gardy thinks about Matt Guerrier and his fastball use:

With the infield in, Guerrier got ahead of Gonzalez 0-2 before throwing a fastball, which turned into the sacrifice fly. "You get 0-2 on a guy and try to throw a fastball up -- I don't get it, that's just giving him an RBI," Gardenhire said.

Bautista's walk was frustrating because it came with two outs. And Guerrier also got ahead of Wells 0-2 before getting beat with a fastball.

"With Vernon, you saw him chase and miss a breaking ball by 2 feet, and then we go fastball away on him and he goes off the wall," Gardenhire said. "That's just bad selection of pitches and not executing. Pretty disappointing."

It's hard to argue with that logic, although if Guerrier had turned both of those plate appearances into outs we wouldn't be thinking about pitch selection at all and Gardenhire would be talking about how Matty got 'em out of a jam.

With Slowey, who pitched six and a third innings and didn't have the advantage of being a relief pitcher whose pitch selection could be a bit more unpredictable, repeatedly going to the fastball is like playing with fire.  Even if that pitch has been your best offering this season.  Over the course of 2010 Kevin has actually thrown his fastball less than he has in his Major League career, right around 60% of the time through the season's first three months.  But last night?  Check out the breakdown.

Pitch Selection

Pitches
VS RHB

Pitches
VS LHB

Total

Fastball

51

36

87

Breaking Ball

4

2

6

Off-Speed

1

4

5

For you math whiz's out there, Slowey dealt the fastball 89% of the time.  That's insane for a starting pitcher with a 90-mph fastball.  Why would Mauer and Slowey decide to attack the Blue Jays with the fastball so exclusively?  Did Kevin not feel is complimentary pitches last night?  Did they get a little tentative after Alex Gonzalez homered off a breaking ball in the first inning?

Whatever the reason, the results speak for themselves even if you give Slowey a pass for that inside the park home run.  What we do know is the following, which adds to my confusion.

  • He wasn't falling behind early.  Slowey had a first-pitch strike 86% of the time, one of his first two pitches was a strike 96% of the time, and two of the first three pitches of a plate appearance were strikes 72% of the time.  All of those numbers are well above average.
  • His plate appearances weren't abnormally long.
  • Only 14% of plate appearances went to a three-ball count.  Rarely was he in a count that demanded he throw a fastball.

Yet he was hit hard, and he was hit often.  Even with that natural sinking action, it just kept getting clobbered.

There are certain things I don't understand about baseball.  Why there's not a women's league where they play in skirts, for example (Rounders, anyone?).  Add last night's pitch selection to the list.  There are any number of reasons why Mauer and Slowey chose to throw 87 of 98 pitches as a fastball (shaking off, a lack of confidence, something didn't feel right, the scouting report said FASTBALL ALL THE TIME, perhaps the data is skewed), but I have no idea of how to find out why.

Maybe we'll be told in the next few days.  In the meantime, I'll just be puzzled...unless you can clue me in.

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