Motte's Walkoff Mistake
In the future, I wonder if the slider will come to be known as "Motte's Folly?" I can only hope so, because that would at least make the ugliness we witnessed at the end of last night's game worth something.
I'm not particularly bothered by the fact Jason Motte gave up the home run, to be honest. He's been remarkably good for most of the year, putting his Opening Day meltdown well in the rear view mirror. Now, he's struggled again the last few games, but I'm really not overly concerned. Relievers go through ups and downs just like any other player; those struggles just happen to be magnified due to the circumstances in which they happen.
What I do have a problem with is the way in which Motte was beaten. He lost the game on a hanging slider, right over the heart of the plate. You throw a middle in meatball at 87 mph, chances are, you aren't getting that ball back.
For the season, Motte's fastball has been his best pitch, pretty handily. The heater has been worth 2.4 runs on the year, in just 23.2 innings. That's extremely impressive. Interestingly, his slider has actually been a positive as well, at 0.8 runs above average. But here's the rub: Motte's cutter has hurt him, at -0.5 runs. Thing is, Jason Motte doesn't throw a cutter. What is being classified by gameday as a cutter is really just a flat slider that isn't breaking downward. So in reality, Motte's slider is worth something like a third of a run, or pretty squarely in the middle of average.
So when Motte threw that flat slider to Jeremy Hermida last night, he was, as the saying goes, getting beaten with less than his best. Motte's stretch of lights-out pitching coincided with his near-abandonment of his off-speed pitches, and simply pumping that fastball in the strike zone, pitch after pitch after pitch. I'm well aware that a pitcher has to have something to show a batter beyond just a fastball, but when you have the heater Motte has, with his ability to locate it, you throw it until it stops working. The last few games, Motte has again been going to the slider more often, and- perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not- his ERA is back on the rise.
In the end, this is my problem with how Jason Motte was beaten last night: Jason Motte is, simply put, a fireballer. That's who he is, that's what he does. To see two straight off-speed pitches in the ninth inning of a tied game from a pitcher whose fastball is so dominant, I find baffling.