Astros: Jake Odorizzi is struggling to command this pitch

While expected to pitch at an All-Star level, Jake Odorizzi is struggling with a certain pitch in his renovated arsenal.

In part to Framber Valdez falling to injury (finger) in spring training, the Houston Astros went all in on Jake Odorizzi, who could be around for two more seasons after 2021. The right-hander had a delayed start to the ’21 season due to a late signing, but even with an extended spring, Odorizzi hit the injured list after a rough start.

While being an All-Star in 2019, Odorizzi was electric, as a fastball pitcher. The righty threw his 4-seamer at a 57.9% rate (1614) with his cutter (18.4%), split finger (17.1%) and curveball (6.5%) standing behind the heater. This arsenal was adjusted going into the 2020 season with the addition of a slider that he ditched after 2018, but even in a small sample size, Odorizzi was injured, so let’s not take a look at the ’20 season.

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What pitch is hurting Odorizzi the most?

While the velocity is down from all five pitches this season, the right-hander is still in a smaller sample size of statistics to truly identify his struggles, but his splint finger looks to be hurting him the most. Adding a slider has taken up the third most of his pitches this season with 33 of them thrown (12.6%).

The question stands with why change up your approach after an effective season? We don’t have the answer to that, but if you are pitching well, might as well add more options. Odorizzi has gone beyond using the slider at a higher rate; he has dropped his usage in his cutter (18.4% to 11%) that had an opponent batting average of .250 in 2019.

This change could be caused by the pitch becoming more useless for Odorizzi, while his struggles with it continued. Yet in part, the increased usage in his split finger is coming back to bite him. The right-hander’s jump in opposing batting average on the pitch had leaped from .244 to .333.

While Odorizzi has seen his split finger drop more of the zone away to right-handers, it has been staying in more of the strike zone in 2021. The other big issue is the consistency behind the pitch, while his command has been lackluster and spreading across the strike zone instead of sitting low.

These are a lot of reoccurring phrases that might not mesh well with some people’s understanding, but the essential takeaway is that Odorizzi isn’t commanding his split finger well in his ’21 campaign. As the fastball has been his go-to pitch in his career, opposing batters are averaging a hit at a .032 higher clip. This is a small analysis on a pitch that is going down in usage.

Odorizzi only went three innings on Thursday, as the right-hander was yanked with a rising pitch count. While allowing three runs on four hits and three walks, Odorizzi only fanned two, as command is still an issue.

The Astros’ bats weren’t showing much production with a lineup scattered with irregulars in Thursday’s loss with the four-game winning streak coming to an end. The team will travel to Buffalo, NY, to open a three-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays this weekend. Zack Greinke is expected to start on Friday at 6:07 p.m.