First off, yes, I know this is complete gimmick infringement on my part for using Stacey's series title. I'm sure she's OK with it. Second, and more importantly, I wanted to talk about a possible trend that's developing after Nathan Eovaldi's strong third start. Eovaldi put a dangerous Detroit lineup in a diaper last night, consistently making big pitches when he needed them to snuff out potential rallies. He surrendered a lone run in his 7 innings of work, making last night easily Eovaldi's best start in pinstripes. What was interesting about those big pitches he threw last night was the fact that almost all of them were fastballs and sliders and not a single one of them were splitters. After working on that pitch during the spring and using it 12 times in his first start against Boston (according to Brooks Baseball), Eovaldi has now thrown only 2 splits in his last 2 starts. What was a more balanced pitch mix approach at the beginning of the season has become less so with each start since. Is there anything to that?
The honest and admittedly cop-out answer is that it's too early to tell. Jack Curry alluded to this last night when he first tweeted about the lack of splitter usage by Eovaldi, and his point in that tweet is one that should be considered a positive. What matters is that Eovaldi was good enough with his 2 best pitches to keep a tough lineup down last night. When your pitcher has his stuff going on, why try to get too fancy with it? Last night could have just been a case of Eovaldi and McCann realizing the fastball/slider combo was working and sticking with it.
On the other hand, if there is something to this, and the recent lack of splitters is part of a strategic decision by the Yankees, well then that's actually good too. Friend of the blog and IIATMS alum Matt Imbrogno tweeted a little while ago that both the Tigers and Orioles feature righty-heavy lineups and that maybe that was why Eovaldi went more slider-heavy. Maybe the plan that Eovaldi and Rothschild have come up with is one that features the splitter more against lefty-heavy lineups, the slider against righties, and the curveball is there to mix things up and keep guys honest? That wouldn't be a bad plan at all, nor would it be a bad thing if this change in usage was part of more incremental development plan as Curry suggested earlier today.
Whatever is or isn't going on with Eovaldi's pitch selection, the important thing to remember is that he got great results last night. That should never be discounted by what a pitcher was or wasn't throwing. Eovaldi has really good natural stuff, the kind of stuff that you'd like to think was enough to dominate with 2 pitches on any given night if Eovaldi has them working. If that's what last night was, cool. To be honest, if Eovaldi is going to keep putting up 1s and 2s in the ER column, I don't really care what he's throwing.