Coming off one of his best start of the season, Brandon Finnegan delivered a reminder of his true upside if he is able to remain in the starting role.
Finnegan allowed just two hits in six dominant innings on Thursday against a solid St. Louis line up.
Overall, 2016 and his first season as predominantly a big league starter, has not gone well. He has struggled with walks and hard contact, while leading the league in home runs.
Finnegan got off to a quick start in the first month-plus of the season. In his first five starts of the season, he posted a 3.86 ERA and the league hit just .192 against him. While his walks were actually up from his averages, his K/9 were also up. He was simply missing bats.
In the month, Finnegan threw the most change ups that he has in his entire career – at a 21-percent clip. He also threw his sinker 42.7 percent of the time. It was the lowest that Finnegan had used his four-seam fastball as well. Simply put, he was changing speeds and moving the ball around.
In May and June, his four-seam usage went up drastically and so did his hits and runs. The usage was up over 37 percent in June.
In July, Finnegan started throwing drastically more sinkers and considerably fewer four-seam fastballs again. However, the success didn’t follow exactly the same way, as he allowed eight home runs for the month. The contact stayed and the league hit .280 against him still.
The main difference is that Finnegan has gone against the use of the change up. He used the pitch under seven percent of the time. It is also not a coincidence that Finnegan has by far the highest swing percentage on the four-seamer, as he was not changing speeds as well.
One issue for the Finnegan sinker is a lack of sink. The left-hander ranks 78th in the league in vertical movement on his pitch and 48th in the league with horizontal movement. Finnegan ranks 49th in the league with average velocity of his sinker at 92.29 MPH.
What makes the change up so effective is that he throws it at 85.7 miles per hour. With the four-seamer coming in at 92.8, it is a seven-mile per hour difference from both of his primary pitches. That is a huge difference in keeping hitters off balance.
While Finnegan was able to get away with throwing just five change ups on Thursday against the Cardinals, it is the pitch that will eventually make the difference for the lefty.
He did use the slider 23 times, which came in at an average of 87 MPH. However, Finnegan generally gets more break from his change up than his slider according to Pitch F/X.
Predicting his future as a starter may be glossy since Finnegan is a max effort starter, and has been limited by how late he has been able to go into games, but changing speed is the key for the lefty.
If he is able to do this, he will continue to see success like he did against the Cardinals and should be able to stay in the role for the near future.