Saturday, September 30 2023

Brent Strom stayed at Chase Field late Friday night, waiting for Brandon Pfaadt to emerge from a meeting with Torey Lovullo, the one in which the Diamondbacks’ young starter learned of his demotion to Triple-A Reno. Before Pfaadt headed out of town, Strom wanted to deliver a message.

“I told him to go check out some of the numbers of some of these guys,” Strom said. “You see some Hall of Famers, you’ll see how they started their career.”

Specifically, Strom pointed Pfaadt to Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. In his first five major league starts, Glavine had a 7.00 ERA. In his first six, Smoltz had a 6.44. After Saturday’s game, Strom will gather numbers from more legends and email them off to Pfaadt.

It’s cherry-picking, of course. Pfaadt posting an 8.37 ERA in five starts is not how the Diamondbacks envisioned their top pitching prospect starting his career. “We thought this was an opportunity for him to come up, show us what he was capable of doing and what he’d been doing at the minor league level, and he’d be here for the next 15 years,” Lovullo said.

But Strom’s exercise has a point.

“It was a learning experience for him,” Strom said. “Am I disappointed that it didn’t pan out? Yeah. We obviously would’ve loved him to. But I still see good things for this kid. I think he’s mature enough to understand the situation.”


As Lovullo did, Strom saw Pfaadt’s command as the biggest difference between the pitcher he was in Triple-A and in the majors. Last year, Pfaadt led the minor leagues in strikeouts, was named the Diamondbacks’ minor league pitcher of the year and had a 2.63 ERA in a notorious hitters’ park. In the majors, he gave up too much loud contact and struggled to miss bats, with a 15th percentile strikeout percentage (16.8%).

“Command is the number one thing, but I think it goes deeper than that,” Strom said. “It comes from a conviction. You have to have the conviction that you belong here.”


Strom also pointed to a mechanical issue that the Diamondbacks’ staff will work to address in Reno.


“What causes the arm slot to drop a lot is when he would lurch forward too quickly,” Strom said. “It’s like in golf, if I transfer my weight too early, then I basically am gonna slice the ball. So he really wasn’t commanding the ball as much as we’ve seen. His upper torso was moving forward too quickly.”

When the Diamondbacks promoted Pfaadt at the beginning of May, they were wary of his heavy fastball usage in the minors, which Lovullo described as “a little bit of a red flag.” At the time, that was mitigated by Pfaadt’s success with the fastball. But as he lost command, major league hitters were able to wait for fastballs over the middle of the plate and do damage with them.

Pfaadt began throwing fewer fastballs but still sat at 56% in his five major league starts.

“I think he needs to introduce all of his pitches, he needs to be a complete pitcher,” Lovullo said. “I don’t know of anybody that lives at 65% fastball rate and is a starting pitcher and gets away with it for six or seven innings. You’ve got to be able to spin the baseball consistently. He broke out some really good curveballs late yesterday. I know he’s got a curveball, he’s got a slider, he’s got a changeup. He’s got all four pitches. He’s got to use them.”

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Diamondbacks remain optimistic with Brandon Pfaadt despite demotion

Source: Yahoo Sports


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