It’s been an up and down couple of weeks for Padres rookies Dinelson Lamet, but for the first time in his young Major League career, he made it past the sixth inning last night, striking out eight Atlanta hitters over seven shutout innings.
And since he was able to maintain that dominance late into the game, I’d like to take a few moments to examine his attack just as we have after several other of Lamet’s starts this season.
Normally, I would harp on the lack of changeup usage because relying on two pitches throughout a game is not usually a recipe for success or longevity, but I came across some an article by Dennis Lin in the San Diego Tribune, which quoted Andy Green as saying the following last night: “You’re seeing more sliders and fastballs and less change-ups…The change-up’s a nice pitch — nobody’s asking it to go away. The other two are elite pitches, top-of-the-scale pitches. He was going to the change-up in a few outings where he was struggling a whole lot, because he felt like it was the only thing he could throw for a strike. He’s ripping through his fastball now, ripping through his slider, and those are elite and they get the results he had today.”
While there is no doubt that Lamet needs to integrate the changeup into his attack for the good of his long-term development, he seemed to have lost sight of his identity. During the two starts he got walloped, Lamet actually started utilizing the fastball even more but mixing in the slider only as often as he threw the changeup and sinker.
Green attributed it to Lamet struggling to command the fastball and slider, but Lamet that doesn’t explain why he started throwing the fastball more. Regardless, Lamet is and has been a fastball and slider pitcher over his career, and considering both are plus pitches, it’s important for him to pitch to his strengths. After all, his slider is garnering a 41 percent Whiffs per Swing rate and a stellar 29 percent Put-Away rate. To put that in perspective, Chris Sale’s numbers are only two and three percent higher respectively for his slider.
These incredible “results” that Green mentioned are a testament to Lamet’s strengths, but the time is coming when opposing offenses are going to adjust and be all over a two pitch attack, so he’ll need to find a good balance with the changeup without fundamentally losing his identity as a fastball/slider pitcher. If he can do that, he might even surpass his projected ceiling.