Dodgers Dustin May Has Come Back with a New Pitch
Dustin May has always had good “stuff.” His sinker touches 100 mph with arm-side run that has made some of the best hitters in baseball look silly, his cutter is low- to mid-90s with almost the opposite break of the sinker, and his low-80s curveball has a lot of potential.
But in his first three seasons in the big leagues, May was rarely as dominant as he should have been particularly against left-handed hitters.
For his career, May has allowed a .501 OPS to right-handed hitters and a .757 OPS to lefties. While his strikeout rate is actually slightly higher against righties — 26.5 percent compared to 24 percent — everything else is worse. His walk rate is higher to an almost unbelievable extent: 2.4 percent to righties, 10.2 percent to lefties. The batting average (.250 to .188) and on-base percentage (.332 to .221) for lefties are both significantly higher than for righties. And perhaps most notably, the slugging percentage he allowed to lefties is 145 points higher than to righties (.425 to .280).
As J.P. Hoornstra reports in the Orange County Register, the end result was a pitcher who did have the pitch mix to dominate a well-prepared hitter.
In layman’s terms, May threw everything fast – so fast, it became a potential weakness. The degrees of velocity separating his two favorite pitches, his sinker (95-99 mph) and his cutter (91-95), were small enough that a major league hitter could incorrectly guess which pitch was coming and still make contact. The main challenge was anticipating May’s curveball, regularly clocked in the low 80s, which he only threw 10% of the time.
Paired with command of each pitch, that repertoire is more than enough to succeed in the major leagues. But it’s exploitable, at least to a hitter who comes prepared.
One of the best pitches for a right-handed pitcher to neutralize left-handed hitters is a changeup. Pitchers with great changeups are often “reverse-split” guys, meaning they’re actually better against opposite-handed hitters. But a pitcher with a few other outstanding pitches and a great changeup is generally called an “ace.” No splits, reverse or otherwise, just a guy who gets outs.
May threw a changeup very occasionally his first couple years in the league, but while he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, he took the opportunity to focus on revamping that pitch and getting it ready for his return.
“I didn’t really have a whole lot of confidence with (the pitch) before surgery, so my thought process … after surgery was, I want to start throwing it as soon as possible,” he said, “so if I end up throwing it, I want to have as much confidence behind it as I could.”
May only threw the changeup three times in his first start, but they were very good, including one that struck out JJ Bleday swinging. As hitters come to know they need to be ready for that pitch, it will make his other offerings more dangerous, too. And commanding the other pitches will help the changeup. It’s a very symbiotic relationship.
“He’s throwing his cutter up, getting it up pretty well, which I think is the key with the cutter to lefties,” [Austin] Barnes said. “It’s not a fun pitch getting in on the hands. It kind of opens things up a lot to the other side of the plate, which will help the changeup.”
If May can really get the changeup working, he has all the makings of an ace.
I’ve been hoping May would add the pitch that starts at the left handed batter and then runs toward the plate. A lot of batters give up on it and take a strike. Greg Maddux used it quite often.
Well, they need to get him working with Tony Gonsolin and Tyler Andersen becuase their change-ups are superb. Speeding batters up with the hard sinker and great fastball/cutter will make that change-up look the same speed and batters will look silly at the plate with it even if he only throws it 10-20% of the time.