Tomlin opens up on struggles, closes off his hips

Righty rediscovering consistency with longer, squared strides

Alex Hooper
September 05, 2018 - 5:09 pm
Aug 25, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Josh Tomlin (43) pitches against the Kansas City Royals in the eighth inning at Kauffman Stadium.

© Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports


Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – It did not take a high-tech camera to tell that Josh Tomlin was not the pitcher he wanted to be for the majority of the 2018 season. It did take one to show exactly what was wrong with the righty’s approach.

The 33-year-old saw his release point drop, and with it, came what he calls ‘trackable’ pitches due to his lack of electrifying stuff. Tomlin was not getting his hips clear to the plate, and thus did not get his body behind his pitches. His pitches dropped further in velocity, and flattened out.

Josh Tomlin's vertical release point on all pitches since 2015.
Josh Tomlin's horizontal release point on all pitches since 2015.

“There was a subtle change in my mechanics in my back leg that, if you look at it on a computer 100 times or 90 times, you’d miss it because it was so subtle,” Tomlin told 92.3 The Fan and the Akron Beacon Journal.

“I wasn’t commanding the ball very well. Stuff 86, 88 down the middle, or in predictable counts, or something that doesn’t have life through the zone – I want my stuff to move at the plate, and if it’s not moving at the plate and is moving out of my hand, it’s really trackable and guys just kind of put the barrel on it, and it’s bad news for me.”

If nothing else in his career, Tomlin had been consistent. Somewhere along the way, he lost that, and his career with the only organization he has known was in jeopardy.

The worst drop off for Tomlin was in his curveball, which had been his highest-value pitch in his career according to FanGraphs. Its value fell from 2.1 in 2017 to a career worst -6.8 in 2018, and the righty began to use it less. After a career-high 24.1% usage rate on the curve in 2017, the number is down to 20.3%.

“That’s probably been the best pitch I’ve had the last three or four years,” Tomlin said. “I’ve used it a lot to keep guys off the fastball and cutter, because it’s such a change in speed. It’s a heck of a lot slower than my changeup is, so it was a good pitch to use to counteract the fastball and the cutter. For that reason in particular, I wasn’t able to get the ball and that front leg out front and once I wasn’t able to do that, the ball was just kind of popping out of my hand. Very trackable and very non-competitive pitch.”

As his numbers ballooned to career highs in every area a pitcher wants numbers to be low (ERA, FIP, BB%, AVG, etc.), and vice versa, Tomlin began to essentially over-command. Trying to spot the ball too perfectly began to shorten up his delivery.

“If you’re worried about hitting a gnat’s ass down and away, and you’re always worried about that right there, and you’re like, ‘Oh, I just need to get it right there,’ you don’t have that conviction of trying to power it through there, and your body kind of starts to slow everything down, and in turn it slows your arm down and it makes the ball stay flatter,” he said.

With his re-focused delivery in which he strides further to square up his hips with the plate, Tomlin has rediscovered the ‘conviction’ behind his pitches.

“You can kind of tell, you see the ball kind of go through the mitt instead of just massaging it into the mitt,” he said.

StatCast cameras picked up the peripherals that indicated something was different, but it was still up to the pitcher and pitching staff to identify it.

“It’s very helpful, but it doesn’t tell the whole story of what your body is doing, too,” he added.

The Edgertronic high-speed camera, popularized by Driveline Baseball and their top spokesman, Indians All-Star righty Trevor Bauer, helped with that.

Still it took those multiple looks, and endless repetition to begin to smooth things out. It will take longer to get right.

In a small sample size since returning from the disabled list, Tomlin had thrown six innings entering Wednesday, allowing three earned through 29 batters faced. For now, a 40.1% rate of hard-hit balls has dropped to 28% in his four appearances back.