The Hangover: Jarred Cosart, Change Yourself

Jarred Cosart turns 27 today, which seems like as good a time as any to try something different.

Players are doing just that all across baseball, both having birthdays and seemingly willing themselves into better players simply by changing their style. Many pitchers are throwing more breaking balls, like Rich Hill, Trevor Cahill (here), or Brad Hand (here), going from also-rans to effective big-league hurlers in the snap of a curveball. Eric Thames went to South Korea and learned the strike zone, returning a slugging star. Daniel Murphy decided to start lifting the ball, and he racked up 77 extra-base hits last season. Middling first baseman and former Padres enigma Yonder Alonso tried something novel—hitting the ball hard—and suddenly he’s a guy who hits the ball hard.

Simple as it is, it’s still a weird concept to grasp, and it doesn’t necessarily jibe with what we know about baseball. Players aren’t supposed to be able to change so easily, and find success so quickly. Of course, it doesn’t always work. Still, there are enough positive cases that for any player just hanging on to a major-league career, or perhaps stalling after a promising debut, or both (*cough*Cosart*cough*), it makes sense to give it a shot—whether “it” is more curves or an uppercut swing.

Cosart had a typical Cosart start last night, hobbling his way through 2 2/3 innings, with four runs allowed, four hits, four walks, and one strikeout. That is the Cosart start, right there. Since joining the Padres last season, eight (eight!) of Cosart’s 13 starts have resulted in at least as many walks as strikeouts. What was sort of working early in his career—a bad K:BB ratio but a lot of ground balls and not many homers—just isn’t working anymore, as evidenced by pretty much any advanced pitching metric you want to look at (and even all the old school ones).

The thing about Cosart is that he’s awfully consistent with what kind of pitches he throws. From Brooks Baseball:

That maroon line up top is Cosart’s cutter rate by start, and it looks a lot like an ECG reading for a healthy adult. Cosart throws about 70 percent cutters, every night, every month, every year. Death, taxes, terrible politicians, Ron Fowler talking on the radio, and Jarred Cosart’s cutter. (He threw his cutter 71 percent of the time last night, in case you were wondering.)

Cosart obviously hasn’t been super successful with this pitch mix, so I’m proposing something crazy: that he stop throwing the cutter so darned much. Cosart should throw more breaking balls, more changeups, shoot, more eephus pitches, the Orsillo gyroball, the kitchen sink. Anything but the cutter, at 70 percent, from now to eternity. I’m not the first one to suggest it, certainly. Patrick Brewer noted that Cosart could probably try something different over the offseason, and I’d imagine it’s something that gets whispered about in front offices or among scouts or at your local office water cooler.

For what it’s worth, Cosart’s numbers with his curve/slider aren’t great, and his numbers with his cutter aren’t terrible. But, all together, the repertoire just isn’t working. He might need to actually get a better breaking ball or a better changeup, but just changing the pitch selection could do wonders by itself. Maybe hitters are just too easily able to identify the cutter, adjusting to something else if it comes. Perhaps, only throwing the cutter, say, 40 percent of the time, while mixing in 40 percent breaking balls and 20 percent changeups/fourseamers(?) would make all the difference, so hitters couldn’t just sit on the cutter.

Who knows. At this point, other than remaking Cosart into a reliever, which is probably a good idea itself, this qualifies as something. Maybe it’s just rearranging the old deck chairs, but maybe rearranging the deck chairs was all the Titanic needed.


The Helmet Sticker (Brandon Maurer)

Like Miguel Diaz on Tuesday, Maurer gets the helmet sticker for getting noted righty-masher Michael Conforto out, the only Padres pitcher to do so last night. Conforto is a real pain in the ass, that is if you’re a right-handed pitcher and you’ve got to try to get him out. Maurer got Conforto to foul tip a 96.4 mph fastball into Austin Hedges‘ glove for strike three, Maurer’s fastest heater of the game.

After a 2-for-3 night with two walks, Conforto upped his wRC+ to 193. Maurer, on the other hand, worked a perfect eighth, his ERA inching closer to his peripherals.

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