Enough is enough. It’s time for Wade LeBlanc to stop throwing his curveball.
In his brief cameo in the majors in 2008, LeBlanc’s curve rated a whopping 16.72 runs below average per 100 pitches–that’s one run below average per six curveballs!
Obviously, that extreme rate didn’t last, but the pitch has continued to struggle mightily, coming in at an unacceptable 2.91 runs below average per 100 pitches last year, and 3.20 below this year.
Often, the problem for a pitch like this is overexposure–the pitcher is throwing the pitch too much, so hitters look for it, and the pitch isn’t good enough to be effective when hitters are constantly on the lookout for it.
But that’s not the case here.
LeBlanc is very aware that his curve is subpar. He’s only thrown it 7.4% of the time in his career, and just 4.6% this year. Even at this low usage, when hitters are focused on LeBlanc’s superb cutter and changeup far more than the curve, it’s very easy for batters to rip the breaking pitch.
The pitch clearly doesn’t work in the majors, so LeBlanc and the Padres staff need to do something about it. Try a different grip. Try a slider. Try something. The pitch that LeBlanc currently uses is clearly not the answer. He’s had two years in the majors to make it somewhere close to average, and it isn’t.
That’s not to say LeBlanc is a bad pitcher–his cutter and changeup are extremely good pitches, although his fastball is not (career 1.08 runs below average per 100, and 2.56 below this year). But he either needs to scrap the idea of a breaking ball entirely and use the cutter as a pseudo-slider away to lefties, or develop a new breaking pitch.