Drew Hutchison’s Road Troubles Go Back To 2014

by Brandon Jopko | Posted on Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
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TORONTO, CANADA - JUNE 8: Drew Hutchison #36 of the Toronto Blue Jays makes his way from the bullpen to the dugout before the start of MLB game action against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 8, 2014 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

TORONTO, CANADA – JUNE 8: Drew Hutchison #36 of the Toronto Blue Jays makes his way from the bullpen to the dugout before the start of MLB game action against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 8, 2014 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

So far in 2015, it’s been well documented the road struggles of Toronto Blue Jays’ starter, Drew Hutchison, who sports a .372 BA against opposing hitters on the road versus a minuscule .219 BA at Rogers Centre. The thing is though, it hasn’t just been a problem this year; this goes back to 2014.

For those that recall, Hutchison, rather curiously, had a hard time pitching at home early in ’14 and consequently had more success on the road. Then all of a sudden, things switched and the pattern has held all the way till now. Behold:

Starts IP IP/Start H SO BB ER HR ERA
2014 HOME Results til July 21st 8 37.1 4.2 47 39 17 32 9 7.76
2014 HOME Results after Aug 6th 5 33 6.2 17 42 5 5 2 1.36
2015 HOME Results 9 57 6.1 47 53 13 14 3 2.21
HOME totals since Aug 6th 2014 14 90 6.1 64 95 18 19 5 1.90
Starts IP IP/Start H SO BB ER HR ERA
2014 ROAD Results from Apr 1 to Jun 13 9 60.1 6.2 47 49 10 12 3 1.80
2014 ROAD Results after Jun 13th 10 54 5.1 62 54 26 43 9 7.17
2015 ROAD Results 11 51 4.2 81 45 21 51 10 9.00
ROAD Results since Jun 14th 2014 21 105 5.0 143 99 47 94 19 8.06

Clearly, it’s like Hutchison turned on a switch to reverse his performance at home and away, which has only resulted in many perplexed and angry fans. Why on Earth could this be happening? How can someone be so good on the road turn into someone so bad, and vice versa at home?

Blue Jays’ manager John Gibbons recently told TSN’s Scott MacArthur, “It’s got to be something mental because he’s pitched much better at home where it’s a lot tougher to pitch then some of these other places,” said Gibbons. “He’ll get over that.”

Maybe he should look into a crystal ball to see what prompted the turn-around last season with Drew.

However we might want to believe it’s just mental, his pitches leave something to be desired this year, particularly his slider. Remember last September when Hutchison’s slider suddenly got nasty and was highly praised on Fangraphs? Well, it’s much worse this year as he hasn’t been able to duplicate the feel for the pitch whatsoever.

Per Beyond the Box Score, apparently it’s not his release point that’s off, however he is throwing his slider harder than last September and with less vertical movement (image courtesy of BlueJaysPlus):

hutchison bjp

 

 

 

 

 

 

Per Fangraphs’ Pitch Value page, Hutchison’s slider is the worst slider amongst 63 qualified starters in 2015 with a value of -10.2. That’s over 10 runs allowed by hitters’ results swinging at that pitch.  Compare that to 2014 where Drew’s slider ranked 18th with a value of 4.5, which is how many runs he saved by effectively using that pitch.

Hutchison’s also throwing the slider for fewer strikes (30.2% in 2015 compared to 39.7% in 2014), and therefore hitters are swinging less at it (43.3% in 2015 compared to 47.8% in 2014). When they do swing, they’re making more contact (93.3% in 2015 compared 90.5% in 2014) and subsequently squaring up more pitches by hitting line drives (30.1% in 2015 compared to 21.9% in 2014). Furthermore, when a pitcher can’t locate his offspeed pitches, hitters sit on the fastball and Drew’s been hammered in this way by means of more line drives (30.5% in 2015 compared to 22.8% in 2014) and more home runs per fly ball (14.3% in 2015 compared to just 7.4% in 2014).

With that said, despite a worse slider, how do you explain his solid performance at home?

If it’s indeed mental, it can’t get much worse, right? Hutchison is known to be a really competitive guy that wants to go out there and pitch nine innings every time out. Obviously, he’s failing miserably at this and maybe, in my mind, he’s got to relax out there maybe ease expectations on himself. I can’t presume to know what’s going on in his head, but there’s something to be said for surrendering to what is instead of worrying, “OMG, I’ve got to get this guy out!” I don’t know if that’s it or not, but jeez, the Blue Jays need him to be better than he is on the road.

Wouldn’t you know it, the Blue Jays just improved themselves with the Troy Tulowitzki acquisition, but they’ve still got to pitch, man. Let’s hope Hutchison can figure it out.

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Brandon Jopko
About the Author

Senior Writer for Baseball Hot Corner and die-hard Blue Jays fan longing for another chance to experience his team in playoff glory. You can visit his blog at pumpedupjays.com or follow him on Twitter @pumpedupjays







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