San Diego Padres RHP Tyson Ross is off to a fantastic start in 2018. Here’s the big reason why he hasn’t just regained his old form, but is improving on it.
Tyson Ross almost made San Diego Padres’ history last Friday night. The 31-year-old right-handed pitcher fell four outs shy of tossing the first no-hitter in San Diego franchise history. While it wasn’t the outcome Ross and Padres’ fans wanted, very few can deny that Ross looks to be in prime form…again.
Signed to a minor league deal before spring training, and forced to compete with Chris Young for a rotation spot, Ross has emerged as one of the best pitchers in baseball through the first month of the season. One of the biggest factors is his slider.
Let’s look at some basic numbers, comparing this season to his 2014 and 2015 seasons.
Ross is giving up less than seven hits per nine innings, the lowest mark of his career. He’s also given up only eight earned runs in 25.2 frames through his first four starts. Yeah, yeah, early sample size and all that. However, Ross is pitching in line with the best seasons of his career.
Now, about that slider. Recently, Ross has been using it much more than he normally has. In 2014 and 2015, Ross used his slider 41% of the time. That number is up to 47% in 2018.
The slider is generating more movement than ever before. Here’s a look at his slider movement and batting average against, courtesy of Brooks Baseball.
What does this look like on the field? Not even Carlos Correa knows what to do with the pitch.
The dramatic increase in pitch movement has led to little success for opposing hitters. While you would expect an extremely high groundball rate, it’s actually much lower than previous seasons. Ross has produced a groundball at a 51% clip, down from 57% (’14) and 61.5% (’15).
An 11.4% infield-fly rate, the highest of his career, shows how hitters have been getting underneath his pitches more, due to near pinpoint accuracy when locating his pitches. Ross is also allowing a .250 BABIP thus far with the help of a high number of line-drives and softly hit baseballs.
Specifically looking his slider, Ross has generated a swing and miss 7.7% of the time. That is down from 2014 and 2015 when he produced a 9.87% and 10.18% swing and miss rate, respectively.
However, among all major league pitchers who have thrown at least 100 sliders this season, Tyson Ross is sixth in percentage of sliders to generate a strikeout or batted-ball out (courtesy Statcast). His 10.12% is better than Clayton Kershaw‘s 9.89% and is only slightly behind the MLB leader (for starting pitchers), Patrick Corbin‘s 10.79%
Most assumed that Ross’ career was over after his 2017 campaign with the Texas Rangers. He walked 37, struck out 36, posted a 7.71 ERA, and gave up nearly 10 hits per nine innings. Put all of that in the past.
Tyson Ross has earned this great start to 2018, hopefully, it results in a career year for the 31-year-old.