Padres' aces have impacted Paddack's curve

July 3rd, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- This past winter, the Padres traded for and for reasons that should be obvious enough. They're good pitchers with extensive track records.

But there was another noteworthy side effect to those deals: Suddenly, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove were sharing a rotation with -- the Padres' right-hander who had spent the better part of the previous two seasons trying to figure out his curveball.

Now Paddack is working alongside two of the sport's spin masters every day. It's not a coincidence, he says, that his curveball is suddenly a reliable weapon for perhaps the first time in his career.

"The conversations are always fun when it comes to those guys," Paddack said. "They get a big credit on me developing that third pitch. Watching two guys that spin the ball better than anybody in the league and getting feedback from them, it's always a plus."

Paddack got plenty of feedback when he exited his start on Friday night. He recorded five whiffs on nine swings with his curve and another three called strikes. He threw 20 curveballs in total, the most he'd ever thrown in a start.

Afterward, the focus was on one curveball in particular. To end the third inning, Paddack threw a 12-to-6 beauty to Jean Segura -- a .328 hitter this season, who once led the league in hits. Paddack made Segura, an extremely accomplished hitter, look bad.

The Phillies' second baseman flailed helplessly at strike three, and Paddack stomped off the mound.

"Sword of the year," one of Paddack's fellow starters told him. (The term “sword” is in reference to an ugly check swing by a hitter, in which he swings his bat more like a sword than a baseball bat.)

It was a filthy pitch that was emblematic of a larger trend. Paddack's improvement with his curveball this season has been huge. Opposing hitters are slugging just .143 against the pitch (compared with a .583 mark last season and a .444 mark in 2019).

Paddack, of course, deserves most of the credit for the overhaul. He's the one who put in the work to make the pitch a serious big league out pitch, complementing his fastball/changeup mix.

But it's perhaps an underrated aspect of what happens on a pitching staff when good pitchers breed other good pitchers. Darvish, for instance, constantly walks around with a baseball in his hand. He has 11 different pitches himself, and is constantly offering advice to anyone who will ask for it.

"He eats, sleeps and breathes pitching," Musgrove said earlier this month. "He always has stuff that he thinks will help us. He tells us he stays up all night thinking [about our pitches]. He just loves the idea of pitch creation and different ways to spin the ball. There's a lot that we can learn from him."

Musgrove, to his credit, is similarly eager to offer advice. Same goes for left-hander Blake Snell, though his arsenal is a bit different.

The Padres built a rotation full of aces this offseason. That meant more than just a handful pitchers posting gaudy individual numbers. It meant teammates who could learn from other very accomplished teammates.

"They're not in your face," Padres manager Jayce Tingler said of his veteran starters. "But they're always available to share information, and so credit both ways. Credit for Paddack for seeking that out, and credit those guys for always being available and wanting to share their knowledge as well.”