April 18, 2007

The Evolution Of Wagner

Ben Shipigel at The New York Times, writes about Billy Wagner and what he's done to improve himself:

“I’m evolving more into a pitcher than a guy who’s trying to get his stats,” Wagner said. “Strikeouts have always been a big part of what I’ve done, but I don’t expect them as much anymore.”

It is not because his velocity has decreased. Quite the opposite: Wagner said he was throwing harder now than he was last season. The big difference is his control. He has learned to value efficiency more than showmanship, and he said he was more than happy to sacrifice strikeouts if that meant keeping his pitch count down.

“I want these quick, short innings so I can be fresh in October,” Wagner said.
He has not thrown more than 17 pitches in an inning this season, and he has retired the side in order three times. He is throwing an average of 12.8 pitches an inning, which is more than four fewer than last season (17.2) and more than three fewer (16.4) than his career average. Wagner had been prone to making the ninth inning into somewhat of an adventure, running deep counts.

Of the 18 batters Wagner has faced, he has needed three or fewer pitches to end the at-bat 11 times. To go along with his fastball and slider, Wagner developed a third pitch in spring training, a split-fingered changeup that he can use later in an at-bat to induce ground balls. But he said he had hardly used it because hitters were putting the ball in play so early in the count.

"When you’re 0-2, 1-2 on a guy, that’s when you look for strikeouts, and there are definitely situations when you say, ‘O.K., I’ve got to strike this guy out,’ ” Wagner said. “But you don’t look for them on 1-1, and that’s when I’ve been getting them to put the ball in play.”

No comments: