On Sunday Jarred Cosart made his second start with the Padres, a start that featured both encouraging signs and discouraging signs.
Encouraging sign no. 1
Unlike his first outing with San Diego—where he inexplicably walked six Brewers in 3 1/3 innings—Cosart didn’t struggle with his control. In fact, he didn’t walk any batters over five innings of work. This is good for obvious reasons: 1) because it’s bad to walk hitters and 2) because Cosart has had a major problem in this area. His six-walk outing from August 1 was his third of that kind this season alone, and he’s only made six starts. Too many sixes there. This was the first time Cosart didn’t issue any walks in a start since April 22, 2015, a 16-start span.
Discouraging sign no. 1
Cosart lost his command. Control is, at its heart, getting the ball in the general vicinity of home plate and, in turn, not walking many batters. Command is different—command is putting your pitch where you want it. “Locating to all four quadrants of the strike zone,” you might hear an announcer say while attempting to describe it.
Aside: Cosart reached a three-ball count to six different batters, with plate appearances that resulted in a home run, a double, a single, and three outs. That’s a mish-mash of a control/command problem, but it deserves to be noted somewhere. Cosart’s control probably wasn’t as good as his walk number indicated.
Back to command: Consider Cosart’s devastating fourth inning, the one where he gave up four runs, seven total hits, and five consecutive two-out hits, all just an agonizing single out away from the end of the inning. Here are five side-by-side images that show where his catcher, Derek Norris, wanted the final pitch on each of those five straight hits . . . and where each of those pitches ended up:
A 1-2 pitch to Carlos Ruiz:
A 3-1 pitch to Freddy Galvis:
A 1-0 pitch to Jerad Eickhoff:
A 2-1 pitch to Cesar Hernandez:
An 0-2 pitch to Odubel Herrera:
The first couple of pitches weren’t too bad, actually, but it goes downhill from there. The 1-0 pitch to Eickhoff, a pitcher and career .418 OPS hitter, is left up in the zone, which allows him to drive it to right-center for a double. The last two are worse. In both cases, Norris wants a curve ball down-and-in(ish) and in both cases, Cosart leaves his breaking ball outside and up. This isn’t any type of catastrophic breakdown of control or anything, but when you have two outs in an inning (and/or two strikes on a hitter), you’ve got to be able to execute pitches better than Cosart did here, particularly to this group of largely unspectacular hitters.
Encouraging sign no. 2
Cosart went five innings. The righty has surpassed five innings in just one of his six starts this season, and just three times in 15 starts dating back to last May. He’s simply not going deep into games, and even when he’s pitching well, he’s often pulled after five innings and 90 or so pitches. With the terrible fourth inning on Sunday, it’s impressive, to some degree, that he went back out for the fifth and retired the side in order, recording a pair of strikeouts to boot. Baby steps.
Discouraging sign no. 2
Cosart blew up in the fourth inning. One of the common traits among bullpen-destined starters is that they often struggle going through a lineup for a second or third time, whether it’s due to a falloff in velocity/stuff or an inability to get hitters out multiple times on the same night (or some combination of both). Cosart’s obviously struggled with this throughout his career.
Times facing opponent in game
Cosart’s struggles on Sunday actually came during his second trip through the Phillies lineup, but nonetheless, he hasn’t shown much ability get past the fifth or sixth inning since his “breakout” 2014 campaign.
Encouraging sign no. 3
Cosart threw a 96.24 mph fastball during the fourth inning of Sunday’s game.
Discouraging sign no. 3
Cosart’s velocity dropped immediately after that 96.24 mph fastball.
That’s a pretty sharp decline, especially when you look at that last group of fastballs, where Cosart could barely reach 90-91 mph after sitting around 93 the whole game. For kicks, I checked out Cosart’s first game as a Padre, and there’s a similar—though more gradual—decline:
Most pitchers don’t lose velocity at the same rate that Cosart does, and there’s some evidence that a decline in fastball velocity can be an early indicator for an injury. I’m not saying Cosart’s injured, but the drop-off from a pair of 96 mph fastballs in the fourth inning of his last start to everything after that under 94 and a number of pitches under 91 is concerning . . . either that Cosart is injured or that he’s simply unable to sustain a mid-90s fastball past 40 or 50 pitches.
Although I noted in my last article about Cosart that the Padres don’t need to hurry to switch him to relief work, everything I’ve seen—both on the mound and in the numbers—portends a conversion soon enough. Maybe there’s no reason to postpone the inevitable, especially when the move might allow Cosart to become something more than he is now.