New pitches on the rise for some Marlins hurlers

February 5th, 2024

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The countdown to Spring Training has hit the two-week mark (less than that, technically). As such, it’s becoming apparent that it’s New Pitch Season for a few Marlins hurlers. Here’s a breakdown of those pitchers, their new offerings and what those could bring to their repertoires. Beware, this is a numbers-heavy task -- but I promise it’s worth it.

New Pitch: Splitter

Quote: “[I’ve been] working on a splitter a little bit, so hopefully that comes into play this year. I’ve always thrown a changeup, just changed the grip a tiny bit, gave it a little more movement.”

Last season, Nardi developed into a stellar setup man, with one of the best strand rates among relievers -- his 86.4% mark ranked seventh among relievers with at least 50 innings pitched, behind the likes of Bryan Abreu (sixth, 87.6%), Josh Hader (third, 88.8%) and Chris Martin (first, 93.6%). Incorporating a solid third pitch (Nardi already has a changeup in his mix, but he only threw nine of them last season) might not seem necessary, but baseball is constantly evolving and a splitter could give Nardi the edge he’s looking for.

My colleague Mike Petriello penned an excellent article about splitters -- give it a read here. His main point: splitters are making a resurgence and could be the pitch of 2024.

For Nardi, a splitter could help increase his K% (30.8%, in the top 8% of the league in 2023), working well off his four-seamer to get more swings and misses. Out of the hand, a splitter -- like a slider -- has the same movement toward the plate as a fastball, until it gets close to the plate and breaks downward.

Nardi already utilizes a slider as his main secondary pitch, playing it off the four-seamer to the effect of a 26.5% putaway rate and a 35.5% whiff rate (in 2023, his fastball had an 18.6% putaway rate and a 25.2% whiff rate). But the slider has more horizontal break than a splitter, so introducing a splitter could give Nardi an extra tool to keep hitters guessing.

New(ish) pitch: Changeup

Quote: “[My offseason work has been to] keep my same delivery and just sharpen everything, really. … Keep the slider sharp, maybe make a few adjustments with it. And especially the changeup, that’s the pitch I feel like I tell you guys every year I’m working on.”

Garrett had a breakout 2023, becoming one of the Marlins’ most reliable starters after beginning the year out of the rotation and in the bullpen. In his first full season in the Majors, Garrett made one relief appearance before moving into the rotation due to injuries, finishing the season with a 3.62 ERA as a starter (30 starts, 156 2/3 innings). His consistency late in the season was a big reason why the Marlins found the success they did.

Garrett ran into some stumbling blocks, though, as he posted a 5.46 ERA in May and a 5.92 ERA in July. Garrett is likely to be in the mix for the Marlins’ rotation, but building his changeup into a more dominant pitch would certainly help.

In 2023, Garrett’s changeup -- which made up 8.8% of his pitches -- had a 32.7% whiff rate, but just a 17.9% putaway rate. That’s a difference of almost 15 percentage points. Granted, his best pitch by whiff rate -- his slider -- also had a drastic gap between whiff and putaway rate (40.7% vs. 22.6%, about 18 percentage points). To put that in context, Nardi’s previously discussed slider had a difference in whiff rate and putaway rate of just nine percentage points.

Garrett already has a pretty well-mixed repertoire of six pitches, two of which he uses most: his sinker (31.5%) and his slider (25.9%). Increasing his changeup usage could turn it into a stellar putaway pitch.

New Pitch:
Two-seam fastball

Quote: “I feel like everything’s really good right now; I’ve added a two-seamer consistently now, got some really good separation off the four-seamer and then some really good separation off the changeup.”

Weathers was acquired by the Marlins at the Trade Deadline last season, making just three starts for Miami down the stretch. He also pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in the postseason.

But Weathers doesn’t have a definite spot in the Majors yet. Across 15 games (12 starts) between Miami and San Diego, Weathers posted a 6.55 ERA and a .305 opponents’ batting average.

He has potential, though. Once he was in the Marlins’ system, Weathers made seven starts at Triple-A Jacksonville, with a 2.54 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. He doesn’t have a huge repertoire to work with. Weathers relies on a four-seamer (56.1%), while turning to his changeup (23.6%) and sweeper (20.3%) and his secondary pitches.

Adding in a two-seamer, which is slower but has more movement than a straight-in four-seamer, could help his changeup and sweeper do more dirty work and thus raise his strikeout rate (17.4%). Weathers started to notice improvements once he was in the Marlins’ system last year, and he has continued to develop this offseason. The big question for Spring Training will be whether that two-seamer can play and whether it can play at the big league level.