Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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How Spencer Turnbull Found Success Against The Reds In Consecutive Outings

When you think of the Cincinnati Reds, your first thought is probably their elite starting rotation, but their offense is certainly not weak. The Reds added stars Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas this past offseason to join incumbent stars Eugenio Suárez and Joey Votto. They also have some young and exciting, though unproven, offensive talent in the likes of Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, and the newly acquired Shogo Akiyama. That offense has combined for a collective 104 OPS+ so far this season, ranking in the middle of the pack in the National League, arguably having the potential for more. One pitcher, however, has been able to silence the Reds’ lineup not just once, but twice in the early going this year: Tigers right hander Spencer Turnbull.

Turnbull is an interesting pitcher in that he has an abundance of potential, but has yet to put it together for a full Major League season. He got off to a strong start last year, pitching to a 3.31 ERA in the first half, backed up by a .311 opponent wOBA and 3.94 FIP. His second half wasn’t nearly as successful, allowing a 6.60 ERA with a .354 opponent wOBA, though his 4.07 FIP was more in line with his first half numbers. A big factor in this drastic difference between halves was the quality of contact he allowed. In the first half, he allowed just a 35.4% hard hit rate, per Fangraphs. In the second half, he allowed a 50.6% hard hit rate. Still, the underlying numbers suggested Turnbull was much better than his season-long 4.61 ERA indicated, and there was definite breakout potential there for 2020.

In two starts, spanning 11 innings, Turnbull has allowed just three runs on six hits and five walks, with 14 strikeouts while not allowing a home run. That line is good for a 2.45 ERA and 1.91 FIP. What’s more notable about Turnbull’s success in those two outings is how he has been able to be successful.

Turnbull had an entirely different game plan to attack the hitters in each of his two starts. As you can see in the graphic above, he utilized a different pitch mix, along with different locations, in each of the two starts. In the first start, Turnbull stayed up in the zone with more frequency, mostly with high fastballs. That changed in the second start, as he went to the bottom of the zone more frequently, relying on the sinker, slider, and changeup.

Pitch% Thrown (July 26)% Thrown (July 31)
Fastball54.0%37.9%
Sinker10.3%28.7%
Slider24.1%18.4%
Changeup6.9%14.9%
Curve4.6%N/A
Data: StatCast

In the first start, Turnbull relied much more heavily on his fastball and slider, combining to throw those two pitches 78.1% of the time. In the second start, he relied more on the changeup and sinker, throwing the fastball and slider just 56.3% of the time. Additionally, while he threw the curveball six times in the first start, he didn’t throw it at all in the second.

Changing up his pitch mix and locations allowed for continued success against the Reds. Pitchers are often at a major disadvantage when facing a team in two consecutive starts, as the hitters have had a chance to familiarize themselves with the pitcher. Turnbull did a great job leveraging his arsenal to give the hitters an entirely different look against him the second time out, and he was rewarded with success.

Kyle Berger

Reds contributor for Max’s Sporting Studio. Follow on Twitter @KB_48