ST. PETERSBURG, FL: Josh has had a bipolar start to the season, he got hit around in his first outing against the Nationals, nonetheless, he has made several adjustments. Recently, he had his best outing against the Astros when he pitched 6 innings with 2 strikeouts while allowing four hits, and 1 walk.
He was pitching quite well on Tuesday before leaving with a foot contusion.
Josh Fleming was phenomenal, pounding the strike zone, and generating plenty of ground balls. He averaged -5.5 LA when batters were facing his sinker. Josh really showed out his sinker; it’s time to say it, Josh Fleming’s sinker is a unicorn. The sinker has vertical movement numbers that for instance look like a slider, horizontal movement similar to a curve ball, and velocity like a sinker. Let’s not forget that Fleming’s sinker doesn’t spin; it averages 400 less RPMS than league average.
If I would describe Josh’s outing with two words I would say simple, and quick. Last Tuseday Fleming was doing quick work while being effective. His pitching plan was based on his sinker which was thrown in for lefties, and out to righties. there was only one leftie in the lineup, however, Flem did not disappoint, he pitched enough sinkers in the inner part of the plate. Fleming used his sinker 53.3% in his first pitch to set the batter. Then the plan was easy, freeze the batter with the early sinker, get to two strikes, and finish them with the curve or, change. When the sinker doesn’t drop for strikes he goes to the secondary stuff. He did not get as many strikeouts as he would desire (just 1) however, he managed to get plenty of ground balls to get effortless outs.
The game plan based on location was more than clear. Pitch to the first base side of the plate. If the batter is a lefty, pound him with sinkers in. If the batter is a righty try to get ground balls with the sinker (because is impossible to elevate), and force them to get early to the ball with the change-up. One of the keys to this execution is tunneling; Flem did a great job not tipping his pitches. He was able to full hitters with both pitches. Here is a graph that shows how frequently Josh worked with the first base side of the plate.
Josh didn’t commit many mistakes, nonetheless, the Pirates hit the ball hard when he misplaced his change. Some change-ups stayed middle-middle and got punished like Connor Joe did with a 100 MPH double to the left field line. Indeed the change up gets hit when is miss located, however, sometimes the change gets flat and subsequently lacks movement. This is something that Josh needs to address, but there are not many aspects that you can complain about tonight.
One of Josh’s improvements has been his ability to reduce damage from RHB. This year they hit .306 against him, while last year they hit .386. Tonight he faced a heavily right-handed lineup, nonetheless, he cruised through it. Josh Fleming’s night finished early after he got hit by a 113 MPH grounder in his landing foot. He finished with 3.1 innings pitched, two hits, one earned run, three walks, and one strikeout.
Hopefully Fleming recovers quickly from the foot contusion, because his last few appearances suggest he is an important contributor to the team.