Cody Allen's trouble with the curve

Closer's overall success tied closely to breaking ball success

Alex Hooper
August 09, 2018 - 12:09 am
Aug 8, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Cody Allen (37) throws a pitch during the ninth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Progressive Field.

© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports


Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – Cleveland Indians closer Cody Allen is having the worst season of his Major League Career.

The 29-year-old is currently sporting a career-worst ERA (4.40), FIP (4.96), xFIP (4.68) and WAR (-0.2). Those numbers are largely inflated because of his six run implosion against the Cincinnati Reds on July 10. Since that day, Allen had allowed just two runs on nine hits over 8 2/3 innings, not having allowed a run in his last six outings.

The righty again struggled on Wednesday, allowing a game-tying solo home run to Minnesota Twins third baseman Miguel Sano in the bottom of the 9th. He needed 28 pitches to escape the inning, though Allen did so with the game still tied.

The pitch that Sano hit out was a hanging curveball slightly off the plate away that the former All-Star barreled up and sent 393 feet at 102.8 mph. It was a pitch that not most hitters can square up effectively, but it was not the first hanging breaking ball of the at-bat.

Overall, Allen threw 10 curveballs, earning three whiffs, hitting Sano’s barrel, and missing the rest for balls.

The closer’s success is largely tied to that pitch, being the only offering outside of his mid-90s fastball which is sitting at a career-low average of 94.1 mph on the season. As a matter of fact, in month-long intervals, Allen’s batting average against is proportionate with the weight value of his curve, according to FanGraphs.

Allen had his worst month of the season in July, with a .292 average and .521 slugging, while posting a -3 value, all season-worsts. His -1.4 value in March and April saw a .200 average against, both second worst, and so on.

Unsurprisingly, 2018 is the first seasons since his 29-inning debut season in 2012 that Allen is carrying a negative value (-1.9) for a whole season.

Similarly to Wednesday night, hitters have not been swinging at the pitch when it leaves the zone, allowing them to zone in on the fastball. Allen’s 32.2% rate of swings drawn out of the zone on the curve is also a career low. Hitters are also letting it fly when the pitch is in the zone at a 54.7% clip, while the next highest total in a season is 49.6% in 2016.

More swings producing a career-high .582 OPS (2012 withstanding) has spelled bad results for the Indians’ all-time leader in saves.