Boston Red Sox Michael Wacha: “I feel like the change has been as bad as it has been… I feel like a new man”

Starting pitcher Michael Wacha – whom the Boston Red Sox signed for a one-year, $ 7 million contract – finished 2021 with a 5.05 ERA and 4.47 FIP in 29 games (23 starts ).

But he’s posted a 3.20 ERA and 3.14 FIP over his last eight outings (seven starts). He struck out 45 strikes and had just seven goals in a 39 â…“ inning. He also kept his opponents at a .193 batting average and .331 slugging percentage during that streak.

What was the biggest difference?

The 30-year-old right-hander – who throws a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a shift, a cutter and a curveball – took out his cutter and started mixing his curveball more often towards the end of the 2021 season.

“I felt like the cutter just didn’t have the consistency I wanted,” Wacha said on Saturday during his introductory Zoom press conference. “So I kind of gave that up and started mixing in the curve. And I felt like the curve ball was a lot slower than the cutter. It was a big difference from my other pitches. So I felt like the hitters were more off balance. It ended up being a pitch where people would take it and steal a shot from them or it would be weak contact. And then it helps that fastball play. .

He said he also started to mix his two-seam fastball more often.

“Just to play on the four seams that go up a bit more,” he said. “And the two-man seam has a little stroke on the arm side. I had a few broken bats and poor contact with this pitch as well.

He plans to bring the Cutter back in 2022. Opponents hit 0.375 with a 0.586 slugging percentage against him.

“Going forward with that in the offseason, I’m going to continue to work on those pitches, but also bring that cutter back to where I need it, where it’s more consistent ground against righties and left-handed people, ”he said. “And then change plays out no matter what. It’s a good pitch for me.

His change was by far his best shot of 2021. He kept his opponents at a .207 batting average and a .355 slugging percentage when he threw it.

He threw the curve ball better than the results showed. The opponents hit 0.444 with a 0.444 slugging percentage against him. But he had an expected batting average of 0.235 and an expected stroke percentage of 0.297 against the field.

“My bike worked this year, which is a good sign with the strength of my arms and the way my body was moving,” Wacha said. “And I feel like the change has been as unpleasant as it has been in my entire career. So I feel like a new man there. I have been feeling really good over the past year so I can’t wait to keep moving forward. “

He said nothing is guaranteed. He knows he has to earn a place in the starting rotation.

“I feel 100% like this,” Wacha said. “Every year that I start spring training, I always try to earn that place and prove to people that I belong to this situation. And so it’s no different than any other year that I come in and work the offseason and go out there and fight in line and try to get people out and win. this place in the rotation. “

He said manager Alex Cora and pitching coach Dave Bush were impressed with his ability to adapt his pitching mix in season.

“They expressed how much they liked my willingness to adapt and change and my competitiveness to make adjustments mid-season and not just keep going with things that aren’t working,” Wacha said.

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