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Can Shane McClanahan’s dominance continue?

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Sugar Shane threw a gem against the Royals his last time out.

Kansas City Royals v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Shane McClanahan pitched 5 scoreless innings, punching out 6 batters, without allowing walks or runs in his most recent appearance, possibly the finest outing of his career so far.

After 63 pitches and 5 innings, Cash decided to take Shane out of the game. The USF product had thrown 63 pitches, with 75% of strikes. McClanahan faced 17 batters, of which he retired 14, six via strikeout, five via groundballs, and one via the flyball.

Let’s break down what Shane’s strategy was today and why he was so successful.

The approach on that day was divided into 2 parts: the first time Shane pitched through the order, and the second. The first time he faced the first 9 batters the method was simple, fastball up and away, then finish it with the slider down and outside the zone.

The perfect example was the at-bat in the second inning against Adalberto Mondesi. He started with a fastball up, then the curveball, and he came right back with the slider. The first pitch is extremely meaningful because you put the hitter in notice that the pitcher can elevate that fastball, so when you are down 0-2 you can expect that fastball up again, however, Shane changes eye levels and throws a beauty that ultimately falls outside the zone.

In the first three innings Shane pitched 90.3% fastball and slider, his two main pitches, but the second time he went through the lineup, Shane started to use more the secondary pitches, he utilized the fastball and slider just 68.8%.

The opposing lineup, after seeing Shane once, were expecting that triple-digit fastball on the upper part of the zone; however, Shane had other plans and began to use his secondary pitches (curveball and changeup).

Here is an example: Jorge Soler is waiting for the fastball, but McClanahan drops a curveball with a 13 MPH difference. The second pitch comes with a changeup down and away, which they have barely seen. The third pitch tries to double him up with the changeup, but Soler does not bite.

Here is where the confusion comes for the hitter: What he is going to throw? The fastball up and away? He already threw 3 breaking balls in a row...

He threw a slider that catches some plate, and the only thing that Soler can do is swing over a weak groundball to second.

Highs

This outing had plenty of highs, but one of the most meaningful ones was how Shane always put himself into a pitchers count. 76.5% of the time McClanahan started the at-bat with a pitchers count (0-1, 0-2, or 1-2). All of this comes as a result of the number of times he started with a first-pitch strike 13 out of 17 times.

What was more impressive from Shane was the pitch count, where he averaged 12.6 pitches per inning. Here is where we need to appreciate the depth of the slider. The first time through the order Shane just threw 2 sliders in the zone, where one of them came as a single for Perez, and the second one as a strike for Gallagher. The slider is effective out of the zone, so long as he does not hang it.

Lows

Thankfully McClanahan did not have many lows, the only one came in the first inning when he gave up the only hard-hit ball to Salvador Perez. Why it is a low? Well, the last time he hung a breaking ball right down the middle of the plate was against the Mets, that ended up in the stands, in a 3 run home run from Jonathan Villar.

At first glance, many might assume Sugar Shane’s calling card is his high heat, but his secondary pitches are not there to just distract hitters. So long as he doesn’t hang his sliders, he can turn into a superstar.

Rays fans should be nothing less than excited about this kid.