In Smyly's previous start, he had a rocky first inning before settling down to pitch five shutout frames. What was interesting about that outing was his pitch selection. He relied mostly on his fourseam and cut fastballs early, but then shifted to much more slider usage after the first inning. The shift in pitch selection made sense since what he was doing in the first inning wasn't working for him.
So, I was curious to see whether Smyly would employ the slider as his go-to pitch again last night. Similar to his previous start, he threw only three sliders among his first 29 (10% sliders) pitches, but this time his fastball repertoire was serving him well. So, was the heavy slider usage of last weekend's start just a temporary fix in a game when his other pitches were not effective? Apparently not because he followed up with 22 (or 34%) sliders in his final 64 pitches last night.
According to BrooksBaseball.org, the Tigers 25-year-old southpaw also tossed eight change-ups, a pitch he has rarely used in the past year. Meanwhile, he used his cutter, one of his favorite pitches as a reliever last year, just 7 times.
The linear weights outcomes of his pitches last night showed good results on everything but the cut fastball:
fourseam fastball -1.89
cut fastball +0.71
Last week, I credited the shift from fastballs to sliders to catcher Alex Avila's pitch calling (Bryan Holaday was behind the plate last night), but perhaps it is going to be a general strategy for Smyly to rely on the fastball early with more sliders later. That and his change-up usage are things to watch in his next start.