Much of the reporting of Jonathan Loaisiga’s first start focused on how similar his results were to his Major League performance in 2018. Loaisiga displayed electric stuff in his first start of 2019, but he struggled to get outs multiple times through the order, and was unable to pitch deep into the game, forcing the Yankees to go to the bullpen after just 4 innings (and admittedly, just 70 pitches). Lost in the analysis of results was the recognition that Loaisiga did not achieve those results in exactly the same way as last season. As a disclaimer, super-small sample size certainly applies in this case, however I would like to highlight some trends that I plan to track when Loaisiga pitches this season.
One thing I noticed while Loaisiga was pitching last week was his arm slot looked slightly different than last season. At first I thought that the camera angle could have been distorting my perception, but the stats over at Brooks Baseball confirmed my visual assessment:
Admittedly, the differences are not huge, but they do exist, and are easily perceptible. Loaisiga lowered his arm angle slightly during his first outing in 2019. His arm angle was also lower than during any of his appearances at the Major League level in 2018. My first thought when I see a pitcher lowering his arm angle is that he is nursing an injury. With Loaisiga, it would always be possible that this is the case, however I do not believe that to be true on this occasion. Loaisiga’s stuff was very sharp, and his velocity was in-line with his typical results. To me, this implies that Loaisiga has made a mechanical adjustment to get his arm into a different slot. This could be for a multitude of reasons, from finding a slot from which he can better control and command the baseball, to hiding the ball better during his delivery. In any case, it is likely that this change is on purpose.
The other point I would like to note is that Loaisiga’s arm slot for both his fastball and curveball were nearly identical. This was also generally true for Loaisiga during his Major League debut last season, but his arm angles for all pitches started to separate as the season wore on. Throwing two vastly different pitches from the same slot can help disguise pitches from opposing hitters. As far as whiff rate is concerned, check out Loaisiga’s stats from his first start:
Loaisiga’s whiff rate was greatly increased on both his fastball and curve. Loaisiga’s whiff rate with the fastball was the best of his young career, and his curve was whiffed at as often as during his first month in the big leagues in 2018. Also of note, check out his pitch usage:
Loaisiga dropped his change-up usage, and really focused on his curve as his primary secondary offering. Loaisiga was a typical power pitcher in his first start, using the fastball to set-up the hammer. I would be curious to know what the game plan would have been had Loaisiga been forced to see the lineup once more. Would he have shown change-up more often? Or would he have stuck with the fastball/curveball combination?
Either way, Jonathan Loaisiga was different in his first start this season, and it bears watching as the season continues.
[Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images]