The biggest difference for Smyly between first start and last night's outing was the increased use of his slider. In his first start, he threw 23% cut fastballs and 17% sliders, but last night it was 13% cutters and 31% sliders. According to Brooks Baseball, the Tigers left hander recorded a linear weights value of -2.24 on his slider (negative numbers are good) and a 0.49 on his cutter (positive numbers are bad). In fact, his slider was the only pitch giving him positive results last night. So, it made sense that it became his primary breaking pitch.
The most interesting thing about his pitch selection though was timing. In the 30-pitch first inning where he allowed both runs, he relied mostly on his four-seam fast ball and cutter throwing only 5 sliders (17% of his pitches). In the final four frames, 24 out of of 62 (39%) of his pitches were sliders.
The shift in pitch selection actually seemed to start with the final batter of the first inning. Smyly threw two sliders to pale hose shortstop Alexei Ramirez including a swinging strike three to end the inning. In the last five innings, he allowed just three hits total and registered six strikeouts including four on sliders.
To whom do we give credit for the move to more sliders? Smyly? Manager Brad Ausmus? Pitching coach Jeff Jones? Since it was an in-game or even in-inning adjustment and probably not a pre-game plan, I think a lot of the credit can go to the pitch calling of catcher Alex Avila.
At any rate, the slider made Smyly's game last night and its' use and effectiveness is something to observe going forward.