Jerad Eickhoff Update: Going One-for-Two
So, for Eickhoff, there are two things I’ll be watching for this season, especially early. One, will he start using his changeup more (and consequently, will it continue to get rocked)? He’s already shown the ability to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation pitcher, but with an improved changeup, he could take a serious step forward.
The other thing I’d like to see Eickhoff do is throw his curveball more often. He threw it 24% of the time last year, with a contact rate of just 62%, allowing a .462 OPS. That is fantastic, and so he should feature his curveball more prominently in his repertoire.
At the end of the piece, I promised to keep you updated as the season progressed, and at the risk of ruining the suspense, that is exactly what I’m doing for my dear readers. Let’s start with a graph from Brooks Baseball:
Overall, Eickhoff has essentially abandoned his changeup and thrown his curveball more. His curveball usage is up to nearly 30% (T-4th among qualified starters), while he’s thrown just 5 changeups through three starts. He’s also increased his two-strike curveball usage 6 percentage points from last year to over 52%. Curveballs have accounted for 12 of his 18 Ks (67%) after accounting for 63% of his strikeouts last year.
This continues a trend seen at the end of last year where Eickhoff threw his changeup less than 2% of the time in September (including his lone start in October), while throwing his curveball about 27% of the time.
Whether this shift has helped his overall profile is still inconclusive. Eickhoff has struck out 2.2% more hitters, but also walked 2.4% more. That’s expected, as most pitchers don’t control their breaking pitches as well as their hard stuff. However, in two of his three starts, Eickhoff has walked just 1 hitter while striking out at least 5. Against the Mets on April 10, he walked four in what looks like an outlier, as the right-hander walked four hitters in only one other time in his 44-start career.
That should serve as a reminder that it’s not very productive or relevant to analyze anything too closely at this point in the season. I know that it’s annoying to constantly hear this refrain, but it’s still April; one start, or even one pitch, can dramatically alter a player’s stat line or perception.
However, we can say with confidence that Eickhoff is using his curveball more and his changeup less. If I had my druthers, the changeup would be a larger part of his repertoire. Whether this is part of a conscious effort by Eickhoff and the coaching staff or just due to a lack of comfort with his changeup at this time is unclear. What is clear, though, is that Eickhoff is using his best pitch more often, and I think that’s a start.