Getting A Reid On Detmers

Reid Detmers has once again captured our attention with revamped stuff.

If it feels like we’ve been down this road before, that would be because we have. Reid Detmers has, for the second season in a row, come out of the gates with flashy new stuff to draw us all back in. Last year he caught our attention with a new, harder slider. It looked awesome but his overall results didn’t change. He had an up-and-down year finishing with a disappointing 4.48 ERA. Any time there were encouraging signs, they were dashed away by blowup outings.

This year, Detmers is trying something new. I believe he made a slight mechanical tweak and it’s reshaped his arsenal for the better. This was not his only problem last season but we’ll cover those later. For now, let’s dive into what’s new, and what he has to offer.


The Fastball


Easily the most important change Detmers made, his fastball is much improved from last season. What was once an extremely generic fastball with a shape that didn’t lend itself well to anything has undergone a metamorphosis. It emerged this season ready to miss bats, coming in at 94.1 mph, with 18.2” of iVB, and 7.9” of iHB. This alone doesn’t tell us enough of course. He’s releasing the ball a bit higher than last season, now at 6.12’ off the ground, but the amount of movement it has will keep this from hampering its ability to get hitters to swing under it.

It has a VAA of -4.6°, and a HAVAA (height-adjusted VAA) of +0.8°. This is part of why it’s able to miss bats. While it may not have the nearly flat path of a fastball released lower than his, (see Freddy Peralta, Joe Ryan, etc.) its movement allows for a flatter path than average. VAA isn’t always the end-all-be-all of missing bats. Throwing a fastball that does a better job of fighting gravity than others can get you there as well. This is how Detmers has been mowing hitters down in his first few starts so far. Good lefty fastballs can be hard to come by and he finally struck gold with this one.


The Slider


As previously mentioned, there was a lot of buzz around Detmers’ new slider last season. He was throwing it very hard while still managing to keep its iVB well-suppressed. It should have been one of the best sliders in baseball, and yet it didn’t fare that much better than his old one. It slowed down and reverted to normal over the course of the season, and that’s where it stands again now. This is not to say it’s a bad slider. On the contrary, it’s a solid secondary. He throws it 85.5 mph, with -0.5” iVB, and 3.5” iHB. This shape should induce unimpressive contact as well as a good number of whiffs. It has the depth to miss bats and the lack of extreme horizontal movement makes it a better weapon against opposite-handed hitters.

It also happens to be an excellent complement to his four-seam. Rising fastballs and gyro sliders go together like movies and popcorn. You can have one without the other and still enjoy them, but they have a way of making each other better when together. This pitch should serve Detmers well even if it’s not as cool as last April’s iteration.


The Curveball


Detmers’ curveball has long been the pitch he’s best known for. It’s a gorgeous rainbow of a pitch, coming in at 75.5 mph with -15.2″ iVB and 9.7″ iHB. Sadly, as fun as it is to watch, it’s not as unhittable as it looks on TV. Realistically this is a pitch best used for called strikes and to catch hitters off guard. Its slowness and massive movement cause it to sometimes be recognizable out of the hand. What it does have going for it is that it’s nearly a perfect spin mirror to his fastball, which helps with deception.

The amount of movement it has to the glove side allows it to be more useful than some other curves against same-handed hitters. Detmers’ previous attempts at a sweeper haven’t gone particularly well, so this is important for him.  This pitch likely won’t ever miss a ton of bats, but he’s shown an ability to zone it while avoiding leaving it in too many bad spots. That’s good enough to make it a more than worthwhile addition to his arsenal, a rarity for curves this slow.


The Changeup


This pitch is weird. I’m honestly not entirely sure what to make of it. He only throws it to righties, which makes sense. That is where the sense more or less ends. On paper, it has an AWFUL shape. He’s been throwing it 84.9 mph, which is 9.2 mph off of his fastball. That part is good, enough separation to potentially cause problems for hitters. However, it’s averaging 12.2″ iVB and 10.2″ iHB. That part is bad. As in, actually kind of abysmal movement in a traditional sense. Only 6” of vertical separation, and 2.3” of horizontal separation.

The oddness does not stop there. At release, this pitch spins on a nearly identical axis as the fastball. Combined with the identical release point, it is virtually impossible to tell whether it’s the fastball or the changeup out of the hand. The sacrifice made for this deception lies in the aforementioned terrible movement. The logic behind this pitch is…actually pretty sound? I think? The built-in smoke screen might be enough to confuse hitters into missing and chasing it. I’m fascinated by this one. I don’t know if it will work but I want it to just because it’s bizarre.


The Outlook


We’ve established that Detmers has a pitch mix that can lead him to success. The fastball provides an excellent base. The slider can function as a secondary out pitch and as a bridge between the heater and the curve. The curveball plays brilliantly off the fastball to steal strikes. The changeup serves as an extra weapon against righties.

That’s all well and good but the way he uses them will ultimately define who he is as a pitcher. It’s working for now but the 50% fastball usage will need to come down. That is simply too much and as the season goes on hitters will adjust to it. The slider could take a more prominent role in his arsenal to fill the gap created by throwing fewer fastballs.

This creates a slight risk however as his feel for locating his slider comes and goes. Sometimes he can bury it into the glove-side corner as often as he pleases. Other times he’s spiking and sailing it, or it winds up right down the middle. This has been a problem for him his entire career, but the stuff has largely made up for it. If he wants it to perform like the out pitch it should be, instead of the league average one it has been, this must improve. It should be noted he has always run above-average chase rates on it, which is very promising.

His curveball was his signature pitch in college and he still twirls it marvelously. He’s throwing it a bit harder this season, but he’s also been throwing it less. He’s been able to get away with using it more in the past, and I think he could continue to do so. It may ultimately limit his strikeout potential but it’s always given him good results. Play to your strengths, this is one of them. It’s a bit unorthodox in the modern game, slow curves are very out of vogue. That said, this one could be an exception.

I truly do believe that Detmers is primed for success. I love his revamped arsenal, quirks and all. His flaws and oddities could make him unpleasant to watch at times, however. I don’t expect him to be an ace out of the blue now. There will be awkward starts where he gets knocked around, walks the world, or something in between. When he’s on though, he’s got the tools to be a very successful pitcher.

I don’t want to end the article with a sentiment of: “Don’t trust the hype, he’s not as good as he’s been so far.” Any pitcher performing as well as he has will inevitably come down to earth. That’s not the point. A 1.04 ERA isn’t sustainable, but a better-than-he-used-to-be Reid Detmers is an entirely reasonable expectation. The question lies in how much better he’ll be. A lot of that is going to be on him to put everything together. The upshot is that the puzzle looks closer to complete than ever.

Jack Foley

Jack is a contributor at Pitcher List who enjoys newfangled baseball numbers, coffee, and watching dogs walk by from the window where he works. He has spent far too much time on the nickname page of Baseball-Reference.

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