William has been knocking Nathan Eovaldi's evolution out of the park the last few weeks, but I'm going to steal his gimmick for a quick post illustrating just how much Eovaldi has changed with a small sample comparison. You could argue that the last 2 starts have been Eovaldi's best of the season. They've certainly been the starts in which his stuff has looked the best and they're a far cry from what he showed in his first 2 starts. How far? See for yourself.
That's Eovaldi's pitch location plot for his first 2 starts of the season, 4/10 against the Red Sox and 4/15 against the Orioles. The pitch selection breaks down to roughly 45% 4-seamers, 31% sliders, 15% curveballs, and a handful of changeups. In those 2 starts, Eovaldi's line was 10.1 IP, 16 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 10 K.
That's the pitch plot from his last 2 starts. It breaks down to about 46% 4-seamers, 32% splitters, 15% sliders, and a few curveballs. Eovaldi's line in these 2 outings is 15 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 15 K.
Those results are pretty far apart and they're really representative of 2 completely different pitchers. Eovaldi's gone from no splitters at all to the split being his most used offspeed pitch and primary out pitch. The slider has essentially replaced the curveball as the "get me over" offspeed pitch, from 61% strikes in April to almost 70% over the last 2 starts, and you'll notice a much tighter concentration of slider locations in that second plot.
You'll also notice that Eovaldi has shifted his fastball location from a balanced, both sides of the plate approach to one that's decidedly more focused on working inside to righties and higher in the strike zone. This is obviously to set up the splitter and the general distribution of those pitches very closely matches that of the 4-seamer. After going into the season with no clear out pitch and no real plan of attack with his fastball other than "throw it hard", Eovaldi now has a clear strategy he's trying to employ and a better ability to execute that strategy.
For proof of that, just look to the swing and strikeout rates on his pitches. In his first 2 starts, Eovaldi was getting swings on 41.4% of his fastballs but swings and misses on only 5.7%. In his last 2, he's had a whiff rate of 11.7% on an only slightly increased swing rate (45.7%). The fact that he's throwing it almost 3 MPH faster today than he was in April is surely helping there, but better location and the presence of the splitter is helping as well. He's getting swings and misses on the split over 19% of the time despite throwing it in the strike zone over 70%. Both the splitter and the fastball are benefiting from each other and Eovaldi is still getting a healthy whiff rate on his slider despite using it less. He's got multiple pitches that he can go to at any time and he's comfortable enough with all of those pitches to throw them at any time.
That's the famed Larry Rothschild Effect I've been waiting for all season long and it definitely looks like it has started to settle in over these last 2 outings. Eovaldi has never pitched to the quality of his stuff because he's never learned how to use his stuff the right way. Kudos to Roth for the work he's done with Eovaldi this season in getting the most out of that stuff and triple kudos to Eovaldi for taking to the lessons and developing into a better pitcher. It took some time, but he's starting to show what he's capable of and why the Yankees wanted to acquire him. He's still not fully evolved either, and that's the scary part for the rest of the AL. As good as Eovaldi has been the last 2 times out, he could become even better once he's had time to polish and refine his new approach.
(All plots and pitch stats courtesy of TL)