Jon Garland has made a career out of being a pitch-mixer with solid control.
In 2003, for example, he used a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup. He threw each pitch at least 10% of the time, and he could throw all five for strikes.
He cut down on the curveball usage as his career went on, although he still throws it to this day.
Garland’s four-seam fastball is relatively straight, and his two-seamer has a decent amount of tail, but nothing special. His slider and changeup are usable but unspectacular as well.
With a broad arsenal of “meh” pitches, and solid control, Garland was able to keep hitters guessing for years. That’s why he’s been a solid pitcher for years.
But in 2010, something has changed.
Garland has almost completely abandoned his slider, throwing it even less than he throws the curveball. The two pitches have combined to make up less than 10 percent of his pitches thus far.
He’s also ditched the four-seamer almost entirely, and cut his changeup use in half.
About 80 percent of Garland’s pitches this year have been either a two-seamer or a cutter. Garland’s added some sink to the two-seamer, and the cutter has very good movement.
The two-seamer goes 86-90 mph, with the cutter coming in at 84-88.
Garland seems to have abandoned his broad-based approach in favor of throwing the cutter to lefties and the two-seamer to righties, only occasionally mixing in a breaking pitch to righties or changeup to lefthanders.
We’ve seen a lot of pitchers (Scott Feldman, for example) completely revamp their arsenals to become cutter-centric in recent years, but it’s rare that such an established pitcher as Garland does so.
Thus far, the two-seamer has done well, but the cutter has gotten hammered. Still, it’s a very small sample, and the cutter’s movement, on paper, is very solid, having eight inches of “cut” and four inches of sink. It should be an effective pitch to get grounders and popups, and should be tough to do much with if he can bust it inside to lefties.
It’ll be interesting to see if the two-primary-pitch Garland is better, worse, or equal to the five-pitch-mixing Garland. Stay tuned.