Astros: Lance McCullers Struggling After Return from DL
By Clint Irle
After throwing well against the Mariners June 24th, Astros McCullers has hit rough sailing on the mound lately.
Astros young starter Lance McCullers had a rough start against the Mariner last night, allowing five runs (4 earned) on six hits in 4.2 innings pitched. Last night’s outing was the fourth consecutive outing which McCullers was unable to pitch six innings.
To make matters worse, this is back to back outings which he could not complete the fifth inning. So it begs the question, what could be bothering the Astros young right-hander? Could the struggles stem from his stint on the 10-day DL?
What Do The Numbers Say
Sometimes it’s a struggle to find why a pitcher is struggling. McCullers has not carried the same confidence since returning from the disabled list. He posted a strong outing against the Mariners on June 24th but has declined recently.
In his last four starts, he posted seven walks and one HBP. He has produced strike outs, averaging 4.6 strikeouts in this same time frame. So it begs the question, what is causing the struggle?
The Eye Test
One of the best things McCullers did this year was work in the change-up. We all know how electric his fastball is, and how sharp his curve ball cuts through the strike zone. However, Lance was able to expand the strike zone with the changeup.
He added an extra weapon which hitters must see out of his hand. Not only that, he developed a pitch that generates soft contact. McCullers has lost the feel he once had with the changeup, affecting everything he does on the mound.
McCullers has great success when he is using the changeup effectively. It sets up his fastball and curveball very well. He throws his fastball in the high 90s, matched by a change-up in the low 90s. This is a small but decisive difference in speed. Include these pitches with a hard curveball, and McCullers found a recipe to produce outs at will.
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The best thing for McCullers now is to get back to what made him so effective. He isn’t comfortable right now and will continue to struggle until he regains confidence in his abilities.
***Stats and Data courtesy of ESPN, MLB.com, Matt Hammond and ChrisBoutwell***