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Lance McCullers is OK

He pitched a strange game last night. At least it had nothing to do with sticky stuff.

Texas Rangers v Houston Astros Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

After a stint on the IL, Lance McCullers made his return to the mound last night and had a strange new look. He didn’t seem to throw his signature curveball, nor his new-look slider, at all for several innings. Instead, he was almost entirely an old-school sinker. changeup pitcher.

Around the fourth inning, he began to uncork a few breaking balls, but overall only 22% of his pitches were breaking balls, 43% were sinkers, and 35% were changeups. For the year about 42% of his pitchers have been curves/sliders.

Since McCullers’ return happens to coincide with the crackdown on sticky substances on baseballs, there was some speculation, even by the TV commentators, that Lance was afraid to throw his signature pitch without the stuff on it.

Well, I went and looked back on some of the data on his pitches last night and compared it to what he has been doing all year and I don’t see much difference. At least not more than the usual game-to-game variances.

Here’s the bottom line. His average spin rate on “breaking balls,” (curves and sliders in Lance’s case) for the year is 2797. Last night it was 2795.

There were some minor variances in the speed and trajectory of some of Lance’s pitches last night compared to the season, but I would chalk that up to first game back from IL for now.

His sinker was down two MPH to 91.90 . The horizontal movement on the slider was two inches less than normal (5.81 compared to 7.80), and the vertical movement on the curve was one inch less as well.

These kinds of variations occur from time to time, game to game, and perhaps Lance was backing off a bit just coming off IL.

But if sticky stuff is supposed to create more spin, then the lack of difference in Lance’s spin rate last night indicates that the new rules on foreign substances will probably not affect him too much.

Maybe that sore shoulder will. Let’s hope not.