How the D-backs changed Pfaadt's approach before callup

July 26th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Steve Gilbert's D-backs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

D-backs pitching coach Brent Strom is in his 70s, but he’s always on the hunt for new information about the game of baseball. 

So when it came to trying to see what he could do to help D-backs right-hander improve, Strom dug deep. 

“Over the past decade I've utilized outside sources,” Strom said. “In this case I utilized a guy named Perry Husband, who was the purveyor of effective velocity, E.V. we call it for short.” 

In short, a pitch can appear faster or slower depending on the pitch just before it and also depending on the location and how far a hitter’s bat has to travel to make contact. 

Effective velocity is one reason Strom thought Pfaadt would be better served if he moved from the far third-base side of the pitching rubber to the far first-base side. Another was that from that vantage point, Pfaadt’s pitches would start as strikes out of his hand and maybe go out of the zone, whereas from the far third-base side, with Pfaadt’s arm angle, his pitches began outside of the strike zone. And while they might turn into strikes, it made it easier for hitters to lay off them.

In his first six big league starts, Pfaadt, the organization’s No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline, had a 9.82 ERA. Throwing off the first-base side of the rubber for the first time in his last start against the Reds, he allowed three runs in six innings, with all of the runs coming on solo homers in the sixth. 

“I thought it worked well,” Strom said. “I’m kind of bullish on him now so I just hope it carries over.” 

Pfaadt had tremendous success throughout the Minors, including the past two years when he was dominant in a pair of hitter-friendly ballparks in Double-A Amarillo and Triple-A Reno.

The organization loves not just his stuff on the mound but also his mental toughness. Even someone with all that going for him can face some confidence issues when struggles like that happen -- especially at the start of a big league career. 

So to go out and have a good start against the Reds was an important step for Pfaadt. 

“I think that outing showed me that I belong and I'm able to compete at the higher levels,” Pfaadt said. “Yeah, the last inning didn't go the way we wanted to but it was more of a tip your cap to them. So I think those first five innings were good, and I think we can build off that for sure.” 

This is Pfaadt’s third stint in the Majors this year. His last one lasted just one game, but he didn’t get discouraged by it. 

“It wasn't easy,” Pfaadt said. “But I think I took it the right way, took the information that they gave me, went down to Reno and worked on it instead of just going to opposite way and maybe just be sour. I decided to go the right way, go the right path and take those things, work on them and get better. Hopefully a year from now we'll be laughing at everything that happened.”