Jack Flaherty and his 4-seamer have been on shaky terms in 2023. After an injury-plagued 2021 and 2022, they just don’t seem to be clicking together like they used to. He sent his fastball this message earlier in the seasn and it never responded:
Is it because he was texting in Excel on a Nokia phone from 2002? It is impossible to know.
Things just are not the same. The velocity is down a little, the placement is just a little bit off, and the movement has decreased. It seems like this has could be a factor in some of his struggles this season. Let’s take a look.
First of all let me show you what I am talking about with the fastball placement. Here is Flaherty’s fastball in 2019 versus 2023 per Baseball Savant:
In practice is looks something like this. Here is a video from Flaherty’s start against the Texas Rangers on June 7 where he struck out 8:
That’s not a bad spot. It’s away from a lefty and would be up and in to a righty, plus the velocity was back up.
Now here is one from his bad outing against the Los Angeles Angels. The velocity is down to 92 mph, Willson Contreres is calling for the ball outside to the right-handed batter, and Flaherty misses over the middle of the plate:
So is the answer to just throw the ball in the right spot? It obviously isn’t that simple, much like with Nelly and Kelly Rowland in The Dilemma. For one thing, this season the horizontal break on his 4-seamer is the least it has ever been. This pitch in the past has around 4 inches of horizontal movement, but this season it is just over one inch of break.
Here is a good example of how it used to move back in 2019:
How does Flaherty fix this? I don’t actually know if he can. After injuries and a crackdown on sticky stuff that fastball movement might just be gone for good. Maybe it is time to move on from that chapter — the relationship isn’t over, but maybe it has changed. In 2021 he started to incorporate a cutter into his arsenal. That might be a good way to keep that outside fastball to righties doesn’t get stuck in the middle of the plate and it could play nicely off his slider. There are options that those that know more than I do can explore. What I do know is that Jack and his 4-seamer are different from what they were in his early 20s and that’s okay as long as they accept it and grow. Maybe from this there will be room for something even better.
Or maybe not, what do I know?