Andy Sonnanstine makes his return tonight. Everyone knows what he throws, how he gets batters out, how batters take him out, and so on, but there's not much else to write about, so here we are.
He pitched modestly well at Durham, posting the second best tRA and FIP in the Bulls rotation. His whiff rate was 8.4%, quite a bit lower than his last go around in Durham, but higher than his previous two seasons in the majors. The inspiring aspect might be his ball% sinking back to levels we'd expect of Sonnastine and his overall strikeout/walk ratios improving.
The bad news? He found himself even more reliant on fly balls. As mentioned ad nauseam prior to his demotion, Sonnanstine's home run per fly ball ratio was well, well above the expected range for starting pitchers. The increase is minimal and won't have much of an effect on this number. His seasonal number is still going to be above average, still we should expect about 11% of his fly balls to go for homers, perhaps less given the Trop's homer depressant attitude.
During his time up, he threw a cutter, two-seam fastball, curve, and slider. His two-seamer is the only pitch that actually broke towards right-handed batters, the rest broke away. Obviously his other pitches have varying degree of vertical and horizontal break but it would seem to me that Sonnanstine is easier to hit when you can sit back and know 80% of his pitches are going to move towards the plate. His change-up wasn't very good last season though, so what do I know anyways?
The pitch to watch for is his slider. Last year the pitch was in the plus, this year it was atrocious for seemingly no reason. The pitch is breaking less vertically but as much horizontally. Maybe there's some deception missing or he simply didn't have a good feel on it, but the pitch must improve if Sonnanstine is going to have more success along the way.
ZiPS forecasts him as a league average starter moving forward. I think that's appropriate. There's a non-zero chance these next few starts are his last with the Rays so hopefully he can call upon the Sonnanstine of late 2008 lore and put away chants of Kazmirian nature.