When I first encountered St. Louis Cardinals righthander Carlos Martinez, he was skinny teenager throwing flame in a bus league. Martinez might have weighed 170 pounds sopping wet. He also threw a curveball along with his twoseamer, fourseamer, and changeup. El Gallo's repertoire of pitches was filthy then, as it is now.
But things have changed a bit.
Entering his age-23 season, Martinez has matured, adding weight. He's also tweaked his thermonuclear arsenal, thanks to pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, as reported by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch during spring training. Upon arriving to St. Louis, the coaching staff altered Martinez's breaking ball:
Last year, Martinez came into the majors with the notion that his curveball was his second-best pitch. There were times in the minors when even though he was packing that sizzler fastball he would get off-speed happy. That wasn’t an issue in the majors, though his curve was. Martinez would slow his mechanics for the breaking ball and telegraph what was coming. A hitter could pick up the type of pitch that was coming before it left Martinez’s hand because of the righty’s tell. To correct that, pitching coach Derek Lilliquist suggested that Martinez go back to a hard breaking ball, one that he could throw with the same delivery, same anger as his fastball. The slider was born, and it became an effective pitch for him.
He threw the slider 30 percent of the time in the postseason.
The curve disappeared.
The result is a slider that is rather nasty. Just ask Dustin Pedroia. Or Andrew McCutchen.
This post will also serve as a palate-cleanser after today's 1,300-plus-comment daily thread. Feel free to talk about what you please in this After Dark open thread, so long as it adheres to VEB community guidelines.