Boxberger’s Control Problem | The Process Report

Boxberger’s Control Problem

There’s a lot to like about Brad Boxberger’s game, including a solid three-pitch mix and his confidence in his changeup—he’ll throw it whenever he pleases, even if it means doubling up or trying it on the other side of the plate. But, while Boxberger is closer to ready than not, he could benefit from time in the minors.

It takes little effort to identify control as Boxberger’s biggest flaw. The 25-year-old has averaged more than a walk every other inning throughout his brief big-league tenure; a rate beyond his minor-league totals, albeit not by much. Of course control woes can mean a number of things. In Boxberger’s case, it’s not that he throws the ball all over the place; rather, it’s that he has issues locating to his glove side.

When Boxberger threw a fastball to his arm side last season, he generated a strike 66 percent of the time. When he threw a fastball to his glove side, the rate decreased to 41 percent. It’s common to see a pitcher with better command to his arm side, yet Boxberger’s glove-side strike rate would have been the worst in the majors among pitchers with 200 or more pitches. Some pitchers can get away with shoddy glove-side command due to their arsenal. But Boxberger must locate his fastball inside to left-handed hitters in order to set up his changeup outside.

The issue has more than one potential cause. Fingering Boxberger’s closed landing as the root of the struggle makes sense, but it goes deeper than that. In fact, his catcher might have played a bigger role in the failings than expected. Getting jobbed on a call or two is just how the game works, and Boxberger did miss his spots at times. Still, it was hard to ignore how noisy and stabby Nick Hundley was at times behind the plate—even on pitches located in the target’s general vicinity. Additionally, it’s worth questioning if Hundley’s size, which has precluded him from getting the low strike in the past, impacted the pitches in question.

While working with Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina should help Boxberger get more 50-50 calls, but there ought to be another benefit: improved pitch selection. Despite the aforementioned numbers showcasing how poorly Boxberger located to his glove side, he threw more than half his fastballs to that side of the plate. There’s something to be said for his competitiveness and self-confidence, yet at some point enough’s enough. (Another positive to take from the experience is that, despite his fastball’s arm-side run, he tended to miss good—or miss his spot away from the heart of the plate.)

Though most of our attention this spring will be on Boxberger making adjustments to improve his glove-side location, another mechanical aspect worth watching is how he pitches with the bases empty. Once a starter at the University of Southern California, Boxberger still operates from the set without anyone on board. Seeing as how his most important pitches will come from the stretch, with a runner or two on board and the game close, it’s possible he could benefit from further familiarizing himself with those mechanics.

Obviously the Rays may not want to fidget with his mechanics too much, lest they cause him to take a step backward, but it’ll be interesting to see what—if anything—they do this season with Boxberger. Should he improve his weaknesses, or pitch to his strengths, then he has the potential to develop into a set-up man.



2 Comments

  1. […] to four of the eight batters he faced on Friday night. Though Boxberger still hasn’t mastered pitching to his glove side with the fastball, he did obey the old pitching axiom of down early and up late. Most of his two-strike pitches were […]

  2. […] one of our initial pieces on Boxberger, we pondered whether the Rays would alter his mechanics. Boxberger, a former starter, worked from […]

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