It’s been a winter of pitching for AJ Preller and the San Diego Padres.
First, it was the starting rotation, trading for Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove. Then, he turned his attention to the bullpen, bringing in Keone Kela and Mark Melancon. With all the new faces in the mix this spring, fans might overlook someone like Chris Paddack.
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Paddack, still just 25 years old, could play a huge role in the San Diego rotation this year. After a breakout 2019 showing in which he made 26 starts and pitched to a 3.33 ERA, he took a step backward last summer, finishing with a 4.73 ERA across a dozen outings.
The Padres equipped the big right-hander with analytics detailing why his fastball, which had been so effective the year prior, was all of the sudden very hittable. After diving into the numbers and putting what he learned into practice, Paddack is ready to help his rotation mates shoulder the load in 2021.
"“These numbers aren’t just, you know, thrown on a computer or written down,” Paddack said. “They’re set in stone. Some guys use them, some guys don’t, but I think I’m leaning more on the side of: I’m going to run with those numbers and being able to break down those things during the season to see where I’m at.”"
As AJ Cassavell of MLB.com notes in his piece, it was all about spin rate on his fastball with Paddack last year. His pitch mix was virtually unchanged year-over-year, but the results were, obviously, wildly different.
Padres: Chris Paddack knows what needs to be done
In 2019, opposing hitters put up just a .276 wOBA against Paddack’s four-seam fastball. But last year, that mark ballooned to a .407 clip. They also slugger nearly 300 points better from year to year, as well – a big red flag for the right-hander.
There was no velocity drop or anything of the sort. In fact, his average fastball velocity went up in 2020. But because the spin on that pitch had changed, he wasn’t getting the rise he’d gotten in the past. Instead, the ball tracked right into the sweet spot of hitters. To say the least, he paid the price.
But armed with this knowledge, ‘Sheriff’ is ready to lay down the law and prove that his strong showing two years ago and a 2020 Opening Day nod were no fluke.