On Opening Day 2019, Blake Snell allowed more than three runs in a start for the first time since June 14. He would last just 5 innings, striking out only 3 batters.
Here is what he had to say about it after the game, Previously noted by Daniel Russell:
“I was happy with a lot of things I did. The only thing I was upset with was sequencing. I didn’t mix pitches like I should’ve been doing. I did it later, but to learn that, it took me giving up home runs. I fell in love with the curveball and kept throwing it. It’s a good team, and that’s what they’re going to do. Frustrating, but a lot to learn. A lot to learn, and I’m happy about that.”
Further reading: What went wrong for Blake Snell on Opening Day
Snell went into his next start looking to mix things up — and did just that, resulting in the second lowest fourseam fastball usage (just 35.68%) clip of his career. Additionally, he used all four of his pitches for strikeouts en route to a scoreless seven inning outing, tying a career high with 13 strikeouts.
Thanks to a new feature on Baseball Savant that allows access to video of every pitch since the start of 2018, let’s dig into those 13 K’s to appreciate just how masterful his sequencing was in his second start of the season.
Victim No. 1, Garrett Hampson- On a 3-2 count in the first inning, Snell shows no fear by going to the curveball, even at risk of putting a man on in front of arguably the National League’s best player, Nolan Arenado.
No. 2, Trevor Story- Also in a full count, Story is clearly looking for something to hit here. Alas, he gets a fastball... just kidding. Snell gets him way out in front with the change.
Did it just get windy in here?
No. 3, Ian Desmond- In another 3-2 count, Snell continues his refusal to throw a fastball, getting Desmond to whiff over top of a curve.
It’s definitely getting windy in here.
No. 4, Mark Reynolds- Also able to work a full count, Reynolds clearly had no idea what to look for here, taking a slider that stayed in the zone the whole time.
He didn’t have a chance anyway.
No. 5, Chris Iannetta- So far, that’s 4 strikeouts on 4 non fastballs. So on a 1-2 count, Iannetta should look for something offspeed, right? How about a fastball RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE.
Blake Snell gonna Blake Snell.
No. 6, Pat Valaika- This time on an 0-2 count, Snell goes back to the fastball, and Valaika swings right through it. His reaction after the pitch says it all.
No. 7, Charlie Blackmon- With the previous two strikeouts coming on fastballs, Blackmon has to respect that here. Snell, knowing this, throws him a curveball that starts in the zone and disappears. Blackmon can’t help himself.
No. 8, Garrett Hampson- The first two time strikeout victim of the night (see No. 1), Snell elected to elevate with the fastball, rather than go back to the curve.
It’s worth noting that Snell went to the fastball 3 times in early two strike counts.
No. 9, David Dahl- Just like Blackmon, Dahl has to respect the fastball here, as by this time, three of the previous four strikeout victims come from the fastball. Also just like Blackmon, he badly misses a curveball that started in the zone...
...until it broke out of it.
No. 10, Ian Desmond- See No. 9 notes.
That breeze is back.
No. 11, Mark Reynolds- Now it’s getting a little unfair. Snell, capitalizing on this vulnerability, throws another disappearing curveball.
Once again, Reynolds had no chance.
No. 12, Pat Valaika- Judging by how late Valaika gets his foot down here, he was clearly looking for a curve. Snell not looking to push it too far, freezes him with a back door slider. A fastball would’ve worked just the same here.
It wasn’t a good night for Valaika.
No. 13, David Dahl- In what would be the final batter of his outing, Snell throw Dahl a similar pitch to the one he used to strike him out his last time up.
Here is how his usage overall compared to his last start:
Against the Astros, Snell looked more like a two pitch pitcher, as much of his success as well as much of his damage came on the fastball and the curve. In contrast, against the Rockies Snell was a legitimate four pitch pitcher, and the result was possibly the most dominant outing of his career thus far.
Snell hopes to build on this success this afternoon against the Chicago White Sox.