11 starts were all José Urquidy needed to decide a cutter wasn’t for him. He added the pitch in the spring to give him another option against right-handed hitters. At this point in his career, righties have posted a .774 OPS while lefties are down at a .562, the same difference as Kyle Tucker and former Astro Myles Straw at the plate.
In those 11 starts Urquidy put up a 5.04 ERA and opposing hitters held a .318 average. His cutter had supplanted the slider as the secondary pitch to righties. Hitters put up a .278 average, .333 slugging, and a .266 wOBA against the pitch. All of which ranking first amongst his pitches. On the surface, the pitch looked effective, but the peripherals were shockingly high. The expected numbers for those same statistics looked like a .326 xBA, .518 xSLG, and .396 xwOBA. Unfortunately, Urquidy found himself near the top of the league in batted ball statistics such as Exit Velocity (91.2), HardHit % (45.9), and Barrel % (12.2).
Beginning June 14th Urquidy did away with the pitch in favor of further developing his slider. The results have been hard to argue. Across 59 innings of work, the Mexican native has a 5-1 record with a 2.29 ERA. These are not empty numbers either as his Barrel % has nearly been cut in half to 6.3%. In addition to losing the cutter, Urquidy has also pulled back on his aggressive style.
Nobody filled the strike zone like Urquidy his first 11 starts, as he led all starters in zone percentage (47.4%). While still above the league average his zone percentage now sits at 42.9%. However, the biggest difference comes in the result of the batted ball. Without his cutter, Urquidy ranks comfortable in the top five in fly ball percentage at 47.5%. Fly balls have the lowest batting average of any batted ball but clearly are the most likely to leave the yard. The decrease in balls being hit hard has reduced the number of homers and hits have been hard to come by.
Only Cy Young contender Shane McClanahan and teammate Cristian Javier have allowed fewer than the 32 hits José Urquidy has allowed. McClanahan is also the only pitcher to compete with Urquidy in opposing batting average at a league-best .155, and with both pitchers having walk rates at five percent their WHIP has them once again ranked number one and two. However, not even McClanahan can match Urquidy’s .169 BABIP.
While adding on can be beneficial, Urquidy has found success going back to what he knows. The simultaneous distancing from forcing it into the strike zone has also played a key factor. Now the once thought to be odd man out of this rotation is cementing himself in the playoff foursome.
Feature Image: MLB.com