Minor League Spotlight: Brett Oberholtzer

Today let’s shine the spotlight on Brett Oberholtzer of the Corpus Christi Hooks. Why? Because after getting off to a very rough start to open the season he has rebounded nicely in June and has now put up four solid starts in a row.

The big lefty has never been considered flashy, but has been consistently good throughout his minor league career. In five seasons in the minors he has posted a solid 3.64 ERA. He has also been the definition of a control pitcher and has posted a walk per nine inning rate of 2.1 throughout his career. His strikeout rate per nine innings is a respectable 7.7 and his walks and hits per innings pitched stands is also above average at 1.2. In fact it was because of his consistency that I was surprised to see him struggle so much to open the season, especially when he was repeating a level that he experienced success at last year. He’s continued to improve as the season progresses, and has hopefully turned a corner here in June. Here’s a look at what Brett’s so far since the start of the season.

  • April – 26 1/3 IP, 38 H, 20 ER, 5 BB, 3 HR, 20 SO, 6.90 ERA
  • May – 30 1/3 IP, 29 H, 16 ER, 10 BB, 7 HR, 26 SO, 4.78 ERA
  • June – 25 2/3 IP, 21 H, 4 ER, 7 BB, 1 HR, 25 SO, 1.43 ERA
  • After giving up a ton of hits in April, and getting touched up for seven homeruns in May, Brett has been able to keep both under wraps in the month of June. This has enabled him to join rotation mate Jose Cisnero as the latest Hook to get his season turned around. Now if only top pitching prospect Jarred Cosart and Jake Buchanan can follow in their footsteps.

    One of the things that I try to do is watch as many of the Astros minor league affiliates games as possible on MILB.TV throughout the season. I decided to chart a few of Oberholtzer’s starts this month to see where he was having his success. The disclaimer here is that the data listed below is not entirely accurate as it is sometimes hard to decipher through the pitch types. This is especially true of changeups thrown, because unless the announcers identify the pitch as such, or the batter puts an ugly swing on it then it’s tough to see. In Oberholtzer’s case it is made harder by the fact that he throws a heavy fastball so you can’t just look for downward movement on the pitch.

    The two starts that I used here was his June 7th start against the Midland Rockhounds, and his June 12th start against the San Antonio Missions. Both starts were home games due to the fact that the camera angle is set up to get a good look at the pitcher at Whataburger Field. He has also struggled a little bit more at home up to this point (4.64 ERA on the road versus a 5.11 ERA at home).

    Pitch Total Strikes Balls Swinging Strikes Called Strikes Foul Ball Base Hits Ground Outs Fly Outs Line Outs
    Fastball 164 108 (65.86%) 56 (34.14%) 8 (7.4%) 38 (35.2%) 30 (27.8%) 12 (11%) 14 (13%) 3 (2.8%) 3 (2.8%)
    Breaking Ball 54 33 (61.11%) 21 (38.89%) 18 (54.5%) 7 (21.2%) 2 (6%) 0 5 (15.1%) 0 1 (3%)
    Changeup 7 6 (85.71%) 1 (14.29%) 2 (33.3%) 0 3 (50%) 0 1 (16.6% 0 0
    Totals 225 147 (65.33%) 78 (34.67%) 28 (19.05%) 45 (30.6%) 35 (23.81%) 12 (8.16%) 20 (13.61%) 3 (2%) 4 (2.72%)

    Observations
  • Oberholtzer's out pitch is definitely his breaking ball. I labeled it as a breaking ball because I have heard people call it a slider and others call it a curveball. He had the most success on the pitch when he kept it low, and the majority of the swing and misses that he recorded on that pitch was when he was able to locate it low and inside to right-handed hitters.
  • His fastball has some late sink on it which allowed him to generate quite a bit of groundball outs on the pitch. He didn't get as many swing and misses with the fastball but when he did it was usually when he went up in the strikezone with it. He lived on the outside part of the plate with the pitch and had good command with it during the two outings I observed, which led to several called strikes and him getting ahead in the count.
  • As far as the misclassifications go, I'm sure that he doesn't throw his fastball 72% of the time. Some of those pitches had good run in on righties and were probably cutters. It also looked like he threw a two-seam fastball, but I couldn't tell for sure, so I didn't bother with the sub-categories of the fastball pitch. I'm also sure that he threw more changeups than what was listed, but that was hard to decipher.
  • In conclusion Oberholtzer has been effective of late, and has hopefully turned that corner. His game looks to be getting ahead in the count by precision location with his fastball, usually outside, and then using his breaking ball as his out pitch. He helps solidify the Hooks rotation that struggled through the early parts of the season, but seems to be coming on strong of late. With all of the shuffling of the Astros rotation, he seems like he would be the prime candidate to make some starts for Oklahoma City if they need someone to fill in until the Astros rid themselves of the injury bug.

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