Personally, I have high hopes for slider-extraordinaire Chaz Roe. At 31 years old, he of the viral slider has yet to put it together. Going into Spring Training with no options remaining, and a solid showing last year, he was a good bet to make the Opening Day roster out of camp.
Roe cracked the roster as one of the few “regular” relievers on the team. He could go more than an inning if needed, but he’s not the 60-70 pitch multi-inning reliever the Rays stacked the bullpen with. Sure, you could say he’s traditional.
The Rays threw Roe right into the fire on Friday. He wasn’t particularly sharp as it took him 8 pitches to dispatch of Martinez, and he then allowed a double to (who else) Xander Bogaerts who eventually came around and scored.
What I did notice throughout this first outing is that his slider almost moves too much. That sounds weird, I know. Hang in there. Roe has this unbelievably nasty slider with nearly a foot in vertical movement, and it moves too much? Yeah.
Or, you could look at it this way: He’s not using the mound, his height, and deception to his advantage very well — yet.
I want to start off with his first AB against J.D. Martinez. I’m not going to go pitch-by-pitch, rather I’ll just focus on the sliders thrown in the at-bat.
Slider 1 (J.D. Martinez)
Ball. Roe’s idea here was to catch the inside of the plate. He managed to do that to an extent, but the pitch was high and Martinez spit on it. Notice the release point and the fact that he’s letting it go at a reasonable point.
Slider 2 (J.D. Martinez)
Foul ball. Okay, same idea. This time it was a little lower and Martinez shot it foul down the line. There wasn’t much bite on this slider, but I like what Ramos and Roe are trying to do here. Again, the release point stays in line with the result they’re trying to get.
Slider 3 (J.D. Martinez)
Foul again, but notice something?
Roe just shifted to the extreme 3B side of the mound. It gets me excited just writing this. That’s. What. He. Should. Be. Doing.
Even though Martinez fouled it off, it opens up Roe’s ability to attack a righty away without having the ball glide way out of the zone. He’s able to use his length here to release the ball as late as he can, giving Martinez a tougher look at it.
If Roe happened to be standing on the middle of the mound and he threw the same exact pitch, Martinez more than likely would’ve taken it for a ball.
Slider 4 (J.D. Martinez)
Yet another foul ball. Why did Roe go back to the middle of the mound?
While his slider does have a ton of movement, it’s not exactly the tightest. That means that it’s quite loopy, and if it hangs out there guys are going to hammer it. Hitters get a clearer look at his slider when he’s not on the 3B side of the mound. Buying those extra couple milliseconds would do him wonders if he’s not going to pitch inside.
Speaking of which...
Slider 5 (J.D. Martinez)
Ball. Close, but no cigar. Again, though, the right idea here.
Roe seems to have a better idea of where the ball is going when he’s working the inside part of the plate.
Slider 6 (J.D. Martinez)
Strike 3 called. That’s a ball, but whatever. Roe tried to front-door Martinez here, and it worked. That’s something that I feel like he should be trying far more often.
The one thing that I feel that prevents Roe from doing this consistently is that he might not want to pitch inside very often. I get it, the slider moves a lot. You might hit someone every now and then. It’s baseball, it happens. That shouldn’t stop Roe from tinkering with what he does on the mound, though, and how he approaches hitters.
Slider 7 (Xander Bogaerts)
Foul ball, but ah. Looky here. It from the 3B side of the mound again!
Roe is able to let this slider rip with really no worries about where it’s going. I wish I knew why he goes back and forth on the mound, and how much intentionality is involved.
Again, this opens up the entire plate for him. This also allows for sliders that are yanked to be taken a little more seriously than when he’s middle-middle on the mound.
Slider 8 (Xander Bogaerts)
Double. Middle of the mound. Why? I don’t know.
Saturday’s outing gives us a few more examples in terms of Roe’s slider missing away, and I’m going to highlight just three more examples, starting with Roe throwing to Mookie Betts:
The Gifs that I began the article with didn’t give us much of an idea of how badly Roe can miss with his slider; Saturday did.
It’s not like he’s hanging the pitch, he’s just straight up throwing a bad ball and the hitter knows it instantly. There’s just so much movement that once it comes out of his hand, whoever’s up can probably tell it’s just going to swoop on out of the zone.
The same thing applies here, from the same at-bat:
Betts is able to recognize the pitch, and he properly lays off. You can just sit there and hear the big “whoosh” towards the end, sort of signifying how much the pitch breaks. However, it doesn’t matter when the pitch literally starts at the middle and totally bottoms out a good 20 inches from the hitter.
Two outs later, we have a completely different result of the same pitch to Hanley Ramirez:
Notice how Hanley instantly has to take this slider seriously. Why? Well, Roe is standing on the 3B side. He’s able to fling that slider, let it do it’s job and hope for a swing and a miss. While he didn’t get it, Ramirez came close to fishing for it.
Roe’s slider will be taken seriously, no matter where he sets up on the mound. The idea here is to use that advantageous movement as much as he can, and I feel like he can make it work better should he stand as far as he can towards the 3B side with some regularity. There, Roe can really just throw the slider and let it do whatever it wants, and chases will mount up. It’s that good.
Throw it, and watch it dance.