Good News (Told in GIF): Tyler Cloyd's 2012 Home Run Problem May Be Fixable

Good News (Told in GIF): Tyler Cloyd's 2012 Home Run Problem May Be Fixable

Let's focus on the positives. Tyler Cloyd was, for a healthy part of last year, the most effective starter at the highest level of the minors, where he went 12-1 with a 2.35 ERA with the Iron Pigs. When he was tapped after September callups, Cloyd struck out 4.29 batters for every walk, which if it qualified would've ranked fifth in baseball -- right ahead of NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.

His problem: home runs. It was a big one; of the 18 runs Cloyd served en route to a 2-2 mark and 4.91 ERA last year, 14 were off the eight bombs rocketed during his six starts. But at least it seems isolated.

What's more, some of it may be fixable, maybe even for Cloyd's 2013 debut in place of Roy Halladay against the Diamondbacks in the thin desert air at Chase Field tonight at 9:40 p.m. Some, maybe not.

Even then, for a HR/9 over 2 and HR/FB over 17.0%, anything helps.

The first three home runs Cloyd served if anything should've been encouraging. Look where he put the ball. Either high, over the middle or both. Can't do that.

(Lucky for you, after glitch in BrooksBaseball's game logs led me to believe the site didn't have at-bat data for Cloyd, I pulled video for each home run from MLB.com for use in GIF. Then, Dan, wonderful Dan, who runs the site showed me where to look. Net of net: you get both Pitch F/X graphs and GIFs. Enjoy.)

First, against Lucas Duda on Aug. 29:

Can't do that. Not with an 86.7 m.p.h. fastball, which would've ranked fourth-softest in baseball last year.

Next, Jay Bruce on Sept. 3:

Same deal. Miami's Jose Fernandez gasses guys high. He also has 97 m.p.h. top-end heat.

Last (for now), Chris Nelson on Sept. 9:

You could literally draw a line, from right to left, connecting those pitches.

Cloyd's admitted that nerves played a factor in his struggles last year, and said that the butterflies didn't make the trip this time around. There's (hopefully) more to his evolution than that, but if you're fishing for reasons why he missed so often last year, start reeling.

Still, half of Cloyd's homers weren't on misses. In fact, those four were put exactly where you'd want a soft-hurler to: down and/or away.

First, righty Matt Dominguez on Sept. 13:

Where else is Cloyd supposed to drop that? That far outside on a righty, and Dominguez still turns on it?

Same deal with Mike Baxter, from Sept. 20:

Could still be lower. Still. Not as egregious a mistake as some of the others. Here, Cloyd just gets beat.

Next, his three home run game against the Nationals in his 2012 finale:

To Cloyd's credit, it actually looks like he came into this at-bat with a strategy, seeing how he put the ball in the exact same spot twice. Probably should've changed it up. But at least he can locate. Either way, where Harper fouled off the first pitch, he erupted on the second.

Now, Mike Morse:

Again: Cloyd missed, but not in a spot that should do so much damage.

This one, though, much of the same as before. Cloyd hangs down the middle, and Morse cashes in.

Now, for important context.

All but one of them -- Morse's second, because Cloyd had already served two prior -- came with the Phillies ahead or tied. Even then, six of the eight were when the team was within two runs or fewer. One of the others, Dominguez's three-run blast, shaved a 4-0 lead to one.

Two had leverage indicies over 1.85, where anything over 1.00 is "high pressure." These were nearly twice that. Nelson raked with two on and two out in the third inning of a 1-1 game. Then, Dominguez.

Cloyd's development of his cutter could help. Five of his 2012 home runs were on cutters, a pitch he threw just under one-third of the time.  Adding another pitch would've been ideal; he used curves and changes on only 20% of throws, combined. But making it harder on hitters would make Cloyd infinitely more effective.

There are still reasons to be skeptical. It's been written that Cloyd didn't have a handle on his cutter until his sixth start, when he doubled his season's run total in five innings off three jacks. Still, he could've simply just got beat that night, as happens to nearly every starter a few times every year.

Question is: how often can Cloyd beat hitters?

Pete Mackanin unloads on Phillies' bullpen after latest collapse

Pete Mackanin unloads on Phillies' bullpen after latest collapse

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies’ bullpen continued its ugly, late-season collapse on Tuesday night. It was tagged for six runs in a 7-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves. The Braves rallied for the tying and go-ahead runs in the bottom of the eighth inning (see Instant Replay).
 
The loss came two days after the bullpen gave up 14 earned runs in four innings in a 17-0 loss to the New York Mets on Sunday and it left manager Pete Mackanin more than a little bit frustrated.
 
“The bullpen has just not been doing the job,” Mackanin said.
 
Jerad Eickhoff gave up just one run (on a solo homer by Freddie Freeman) over four walk-free innings to open the game. He was up 6-1 after four innings when the rains came and stopped the game for an hour and 53 minutes.
 
With Eickhoff bounced by the weather, Mackanin had to go to his bullpen. He used four relievers — Severino Gonzalez, Luis Garcia, Joely Rodriguez and David Hernandez — and all gave up runs.
 
Phillies relievers have pitched 77 1/3 innings this month and allowed 69 earned runs for an ERA of 8.03. So that’s one more thing Matt Klentak has to fix this winter, along with the offense that Mackanin wants to see addressed (see story).
 
Ultimately, Hernandez took the loss when he gave up three hits and a run in the bottom of the eighth. The other run in the inning was charged to Rodriguez.
 
As unbelievable as it may sound with rosters being expanded in September, the Phillies played this game shorthanded.
 
They did not have reliever Edubray Ramos. He had a sore elbow, Mackanin said.
 
They did not have outfielder Peter Bourjos, who had gone home to be with his wife for the birth of their child.
 
They also did not have outfielder Tyler Goeddel, who is out with a concussion.
 
Not having Bourjos or Goeddel forced Mackanin to use Darin Ruf in left field after Roman Quinn went out with an oblique injury in the sixth inning. Ruf failed to make a catch on a long fly ball by Tyler Flowers to the gap in left-center. The non-play extended the eighth inning and fueled the Braves’ comeback.
 
“It should have been caught,” Mackanin said. “If Quinn's out there, he catches it. He wasn't out there.”
 
Hernandez was the only free agent that the Phillies signed to a major-league contract this winter. The Phillies signed him with an eye toward using him as the closer. But Hernandez struggled much of the season and slipped into the middle innings while Ramos, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez rose to high-leverage roles.
 
Gomez lost the closer’s job last week and Mackanin was saving Neris to close out this game. That meant Hernandez had to pitch the eighth. He couldn’t protect the lead. He gave up the game-tying hit to Mallex Smith and the go-ahead hit to Emilio Bonafacio.
 
“Neris was going to close for us,” Mackanin said. “I thought about using him with two outs in the eighth. But, at some point, somebody else has to do a (bleeping) job. Somebody else has to (bleeping) step up. In two games now, every reliever I brought in has given up a (bleeping) run. That's unheard of.”
 
The bullpen’s unraveling threw cold (rain) water on Eickhoff’s solid start and Ryan Howard’s big night. Howard belted his 24th homer, a grand slam in the first inning, to highlight a 14-hit attack and help the Phils jump to a 6-0 lead.
 
“Eickhoff looked like he was having one of his best games and then the rain came. So that was our first disappointment,” Mackanin said. "Other than that, Howie swung the bat great. Hit that grand slam. We got 14 hits, but we stranded 12 runners. We have to keep adding on.”
 
Quinn had three of the Phillies’ 14 hits then added to his collection of injuries with the oblique strain that bounced him from the game in the sixth. He hurt himself taking a swing.
 
Oblique injuries generally keep a player sidelined for at least three weeks, so Quinn’s season is likely over. He missed six weeks with a similar injury at Double A Reading this summer. The 23-year-old outfielder came up from the minors on Sept. 11 and has been auditioning for a spot on next season’s opening day roster.
 
“It looks like it,” Mackanin said when asked if Quinn was done for what remains of the season.
 
Injuries have been a consistent hurdle for Quinn ever since he was selected in the second round of the 2011 draft. He has missed significant time with a ruptured Achilles tendon, a wrist injury that required surgery, a torn quad muscle and an oblique strain. Now he has another one.
 
“It’s the same one I hurt before,” Quinn said. “It’s frustrating.”
 
Right now, just about everything is frustrating with this team. Good thing there are only five games left.

Find great deals on Philadelphia Phillies tickets with TicketIQ. Buy cheap Phillies tickets with no hidden fees for all games on their 2016 schedule. 

Best of MLB: Blue Jays beat Orioles in opener of AL wild-card showdown

Best of MLB: Blue Jays beat Orioles in opener of AL wild-card showdown

TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer, Aaron Sanchez struck out 10 and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-1 on Tuesday night in the opener of their AL wild-card showdown.

Ezequiel Carrera also homered as the Blue Jays won for the sixth time in eight games. They lead the wild-card standings by two games over the Orioles with five to play.

Baltimore began the day two games ahead of Detroit and Seattle for the league's final playoff spot.

Orioles slugger Chris Davis was ejected for arguing with plate umpire Will Little after striking out against Joe Biagini in the seventh, the third time in three at-bats Davis was caught looking. Baltimore manager Buck Showalter also was tossed after he came out to argue (see full recap).

Syndergaard, Mets pound grieving Marlins
MIAMI -- With time running out in the playoff race, the New York Mets set sympathy aside.

Noah Syndergaard struck out eight and allowed one run in six innings Tuesday night, and the Mets totaled 19 hits to beat the grieving Miami Marlins 12-1.

Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes each hit his 31st homer for the Mets, who began the game with a half-game lead over the Giants in the battle for the first NL wild-card berth, with the Cardinals 1 1/2 games behind.

The game was the Marlins' second since the death of ace Jose Fernandez in a boating accident. One night after a heart-tugging victory over New York filled with tributes to their teammate, emotions were more subdued, and Miami's bats were too.

Syndergaard (14-9) had a lot to do with that. After missing a scheduled start Saturday with strep throat, he threw 93 pitches and lowered his ERA to 2.60, third-best in the majors. He'll return to pitch the regular-season finale Sunday at Philadelphia if needed (see full recap).

Cards beat Reds to tighten wild-card race
ST. LOUIS -- Playing with a heavy heart, Aledmys Diaz hit his first career grand slam and the St. Louis Cardinals finished with five home runs Tuesday night in a 12-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Chasing the Giants and Mets in a tight race for the two NL wild cards, St. Louis moved within a half-game of San Francisco for the league's final playoff spot -- pending the Giants' late game against Colorado.

New York, which beat Miami 12-1, leads the wild-card standings and remained 1 1/2 games ahead of the Cardinals.

Jhonny Peralta had a three-run homer and drove in four runs for the Cardinals, who had lost four of five. Matt Carpenter, Randal Grichuk and Matt Adams also homered (see full recap).