A weblog covering the San Diego Padres.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Matt's Back!

Last time he wrote something here, it was about the Marlins' formula for success, and how the Padres may be on a similar path. This time around, Adam Eaton comes into focus. Check it out.

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Adam Eaton finally seems to be getting back on track after a horrendous month of May, in which he went 0-5 with an ERA of 8.16. His last two outings have both been solid starts which led to Padres victories. However, one segment of the game that is still troubling Eaton is the first inning.

Throughout his career, for reasons largely unknown, Eaton has consistently picked up velocity as a game wears on. This season in particular it has also been evident that Eaton tends to pitch up in the strike zone in the early goings, as if he is struggling with his release point. The numbers bear out these observations, as his first inning numbers pale in comparison to his later inning performances.

In the first inning alone, Eaton has allowed opposing hitters a .346 average. Opposing teams have hit 3 home runs and scored 12 runs, aided in part by 4 first inning walks. In the second and third innings COMBINED, the opponent’s batting average drops to .279, with Eaton yielding another 12 runs to go along with 4 home runs and 5 walks.

The first inning sees opponents hit 50% more home runs and score 50% more runs per inning than the second and third innings. The results are even more apparent when looking at the 4th-6th innings.

It would seem that there must be a solution to this problem. Maybe Eaton could simply warm up a little longer before each game to hone in his release point and allow his arm to fully loosen. However, if asked to throw even more warm up pitches, the other segment of the game where Eaton struggles could come into play even sooner. From the 76th pitch to the 90th, Eaton allows opposing hitters a batting average of .346. If this is due to fatigue, then throwing even more warm up pitches would seem to encourage such an onset earlier in the game.

Of course, it could be that as the game progresses and hitters get around to their 3rd or 4th at bats against Adam, they begin to figure him out, in which case fatigue isn’t the overt cause of his high pitch count struggles. In all likelihood, it is a combination of hitters figuring him out and fatigue.

Even in Adam’s good starts, he still tends to make a mistake or two in the early parts of ballgames. Take yesterday’s game against the Yankees. All things considered, it was a very good outing. His one real mistake was the homerun by Pay-Rod in the first.

If Eaton gets the first inning figured out, he could very well end up being the ace of the staff after the all star break.


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