José Urquidy is back to throwing his slider.
After tinkering with a cutter for the first two-plus months of the season, the Astros righty will be abandoning the development of that pitch and will instead focus on using his upper-70s slider more. In his last start, Urquidy threw 26 sliders, generating a healthy nine whiffs in the process. He had only gone to it 48 times on the season before his Tuesday outing in Arlington.
Back in spring training, one of the notable pitching storylines surrounded Luis García’s cutter, and how fellow starters Urquidy and Framber Valdez were working to emulate it and develop cutters of their own.
While Valdez has utilized his as a show-me offering to left-handed hitters in successful fashion, Urquidy had made it his primary secondary pitch against right-handed hitters.
The 27-year-old command artist has thrown 128 cutters (12.7 percent usage rate) in 2022 — with 19 of them being put in play — and the results look fairly promising on the surface: an above-average whiff rate of 30.4 percent and a solid .260 wOBA.
The offering’s peripherals, however, tell a different story.
A .582 xSLG and a PutAway percentage of just 11.1 percent indicate that Urquidy’s mid-80s cutter might not be as effective as it may seem. For starting pitchers, the league average xSLG for cutters is .470, with the PutAway rate sitting just below 19 percent.
In general, Urquidy’s cutter is not a bad pitch. It could be used as more of an occasional change-of-pace offering in the same way that Valdez uses his. The issue is that it hasn’t quite replicated what Urquidy’s slider had done for him since debuting in 2019.
In his three-plus years in the big leagues, Urquidy’s slider has been his go-to pitch when it came to missing bats. In fact, it has the highest whiff rate of all his pitches by a fair margin, which is especially relevant considering that getting swings and misses has been a shortcoming for the Mexican native in 2022.
Though its career PutAway rate is below the league average, Urquidy’s slider yielded the highest percentage of his three main pitches in 2021, a season that saw Urquidy’s output markedly improve. Moreover, his slider generated a PutAway rate in 2021 that is almost double the cutter’s in 2022.
The climb back to competency could be relatively a long one for Urquidy. Through his first 12 starts, he’s produced career-worst numbers in several areas. He has sustained an exceptionally low walk rate, but going forward, it’s critical that Urquidy not only induce weaker contact and avoid barrels, but miss more bats.
Perhaps reincorporating his old repertoire could be what leads to improved numbers across the board.