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).