Weekend Recap 11: Catching Up with Nelson

The Brewers had a tough weekend, dropping two of three to the Braves in a series where their bats went silent on Friday and Saturday.

Brewers Braves
Friday June 24 4 5
Saturday June 25 1 3
Sunday June 26 7 0

Coming off his first career complete game, Jimmy Nelson had a tough outing on Friday. He only went five innings, his shortest start in a month. In the game, he allowed four runs on six hits and three walks. It wasn’t all bad though, as he did manage to strike out eight batters.

What changed between starts to produce such drastically different results? Well to start, his pitch mix changed. Last week Nelson threw his curveball 31.36 percent of his pitches and got whiffs on 21.62 percent of those pitches, while pretty much shelving his slider in the start. However, this weekend Nelson’s curveball usage dropped to 18.18 percent, with pretty much all of those lost curveballs turning into sliders, as he threw that pitch 17.05 percent, while his four seam fastball, sinker and changeup usage remained unchanged.

Nelson seemed to stay away from the curve to the slider because it wasn’t fooling hitters. After getting eight whiffs on the pitch last week, he only got one on Friday. In terms of horizontal and vertical movement, the curveball seemed to have more life than it did last Sunday, but Braves hitters made more contact with the pitch compared with the Padres. His whiffs per swing on the curve fell from 47.06 percent to 12.5 percent.

By making contact with the curveball, even though they didn’t register any hits against the pitch, Braves hitters could tee off on Nelson’s two fastballs. The home run came on a four seamer (as well as ball four for all of Nelson’s walks), and three singles and a double came off the sinker. Only one other baserunner reached on a different pitch.

Nelson has made strong progress over the past month, but the curveball has been key to his emergence, and when it leaves him, he’s in trouble.

Travis Shaw had a quiet weekend before starting the scoring on Sunday with a mammoth two-run home run, his fifteenth on the season, one shy of his total from last season. The pitch was a four seam fastball in the middle of the upper part of the strike zone. The game plan this year has been to pound Shaw low and away so he can’t tap into his power.

Based on where Kurt Suzuki set up for the pitch, Julio Teheran wanted to stay low, but was looking to get more inside. Instead, he left the pitch up and over the middle, where Shaw doesn’t regularly see pitches. Shaw has hit 1.12 percent of four seamers faced this season for home runs, slightly down from his career rate of 1.24 percent. However, if you’re going to miss up against Shaw, throughout his career, you don’t want to miss middle up, that’s where he can handle the ball.

Random Fun Fact: Zach Davies pitched seven innings of shutout ball in Sunday’s 7-0 victory. Even more impressively, he didn’t strike out a single batter. According to Baseball Reference Play Index, the last time a pitcher went at least seven innings, allowing no runs and striking out no batters occurred almost three years ago, when Rick Porcello accomplished it in nine innings against Oakland. The last Brewers pitcher to do so was Scott Karl back in 1999, pitching against the Miami Marlins. Those links have the full search list, thanks to the Play Index.

Up Next: The Brewers have a travel day, then continue the road trip in Cincinnati, with three games against the Reds. The Brewers are already 6-1 against the Reds over two series, and lest anyone forget, the Reds are the team that turned Eric Thames into a national sensation. In those seven games, Thames has an OPS of 1.976, and he’s hit five of his twenty home runs in Great American Ballpark.

Brewers Probables Reds Probables
Tuesday June 27 Junior Guerra (6.89 DRA) Tim Adleman (6.53 DRA)
Wednesday June 28 Chase Anderson (4.32 DRA) Luis Castillo (5.70 DRA)
Thursday June 29 Jimmy Nelson (3.63 DRA) Homer Bailey (1.44 DRA)
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