Tonight marks the third start for rookie Dinelson Lamet as he takes on Paul Goldschmidt and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Through his first two starts, Lamet boasts a robust 16:3 K:BB ratio, overpowering both the Mets and the reigning World Series Champs; however, it’s rather shocking that he’s been able to have this level of success given his struggles against southpaws.
While his numbers haven’t been disastrous, Lamet has always had vastly more effectiveness against right-handers but had never been able to hold lefties below a .340 OBP. Yet, judging by his 2.70 ERA, you probably wouldn’t have guessed that Lamet has faced almost twice as many left-handers as he has right-handers. It’s hard to fault the left-handed heavy teams for playing the match-up and trying to exploit Lamet’s weakness because it’s worked at this point to the tune of a 6.05 FIP against lefties. Fortunately for the Padres, Lamet has a produced an unworldly -0.49 FIP against the other hand, obscuring any glimpse of struggle in his overall numbers.
It’s only been two games and opposing hitters are seeing Lamet for the first time, so I don’t want to blow anything out of proportion. Nevertheless, it is difficult to not get excited about Lamet’s future as the ratio of lefty to righty hitters shifts closer to the norm. Of course, he’ll need to find a way to limits southpaws, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to explore the crux of his issues.
Against righter-handers, Lamet is almost exclusively a fastball and slider pitcher, which could potentially lead to struggles the third time he faces a lineup, but that’s a story for another day. What I would like to pinpoint is that Lamet relies on the changeup more heavily against southpaws at the cost of the slider. This is not a peculiar strategy for a right-handed pitcher with plenty preferring to do the same since the fastballs and changeups will break away from the left-handed hitter.
Still, less slider and more changeup has not helped Lamet’s fastball at this juncture. To be more precise, opposing southpaws own a .500 average and a 1.400 slugging percentage off of the pitch. His thriving against right-handers has involved him attacking the outside edge of the plate with the fastball and slider, but he can’t quite do the same thing against southpaws because the pitch will break back towards the plate or the middle of the plate, giving lefties a nice juicy inside fastball or one in the heart of the zone.
As you can see below, he’s instead tried to attack left handers by hammering the zone with the fastball and trying to catch them off guard with the changeup.
To some degree, the strategy is having some success with the changeup, inducing whiffs on over forty percent of swings at it, but look at the location of the fastball. Now, there’s nothing wrong with hammering the zone; however, he can’t be so consistently in the heart of the zone with it or batters are going to keep swinging for the fastball, wagering they’ll catch one and make him pay even if there’s will be some swinging strikes.
Yesterday, AJ Cassavell, the beat reporter for MLB.com, wrote a piece surveying Lamet’s changeup in which he highlights that Lamet didn’t start honing the changeup and tossing it regularly until this spring. He had previously been able to get by lesser and inexperienced talent with the slider and fastball alone but such is the evolution of a starting pitcher as they look to transition to the majors. I say all of that because Lamet still has some growing and adjusting to do as he further integrates the changeup into his arsenal, especially when it comes to location. If he does that over the course of this season, he’s got an even brighter future than the team could have hoped for.
Similarly, Austin Hedges expressed to Cassavell that Lamet’s growth with the changeup could make him an incredible pitcher, saying, “He could’ve been good with just fastball-slider…The changeup could make him very, very special.”
Well, Lamet will surely get a chance to continue working on locating his mix more effectively tonight since Arizona has three regular southpaws starting and a couple more off the bench, who will undoubtedly find there way into the starting lineup.
This is the first of our daily morning reports, which will be running Monday through Friday. Usually, we’ll highlight something about a game the previous night or the upcoming day except for Friday when we will share some links from around Padres land for your further reading.
Also, if you have any questions or topics that you’d like us to answer or explore, comment on here, and we’ll look to get back to you in a future morning report.