After two excruciating losses over the weekend against the Marlins, Terry Collins decided to stick with Frank Francisco in the ninth last night against the Brewers to shut the door and register the save. Even though Jon Rauch was warming up in the ‘pen as a backup plan, Francisco rewarded his manager’s loyalty by shutting down Milwaukee (despite giving up a run) and getting his 9th save in 11 chances this season. While trying to figure out why New York’s new closer has struggled so mightily this year, management feels that he’s tipping his pitches, which Francisco mentioned, has been a problem for him in the past. If you ask me, I think he just needs to mix up his pitches a little more.
Relief pitchers usually don’t need to have four or five pitches at their disposal to use on any given night, but unless you’re an elite reliever (ala Mariano Rivera), it would be helpful to have three pitches to throw in a game situation. Francisco has primarily been a
two-pitch pitcher, throwing his fastball and splitter at a rate of 89% (fastball 63% and splitter 26%). Furthermore, when he blew the game against Miami on Sunday, he threw 15 pitches, 14 of which were fastballs. During Friday’s game, he threw 19 pitches, 16 of which were either a fastball or splitter.
It really doesn’t matter if he’s tipping his pitches or not since he only throws two anyways, both of which are similar. Obviously, his splitter is off-speed and has some break, but it takes the same general trajectory as his fastball. So, when a hitter knows that a pitcher either doesn’t use his breaking ball or doesn’t have confidence in it and 90% of his pitches are straight, it becomes much easier to hit.
May Francisco be tipping his pitches? I suppose; if he had the same kind of issue last year with the Blue Jays and then corrected it, then it’s possible this is a bad habit of his that he needs to be reminded of every so often. However, just mix your pitches up, Frank! If you use that curveball, it will keep hitters off-balance enough so when you pump in that 95 mph fastball, they won’t be expecting it like they do now. I mean, look at what a breaking ball has done for Bobby Parnell. He doesn’t use it a lot, but just enough to keep opposing hitters on their toes. Don’t be afraid to use it, Frankie, that’s why you have it. Don’t do what Jonathan Papelbon does and just throw fastball after fastball, anyone can do that. Plus, it’s obviously not working, so try something different.