When we last saw Garrett Crochet in a game that counted, he departed with the assistance of a trainer because he dropped from 99 mph to 96 mph over the course of nine pitches.
Reports of diminished velocity during the spring prepared me for a similar lack of triple-digit heat whenever Crochet pitched in front of a pitch tracker in 2021. Even then, when lefty Jared Walsh opened up on Crochet’s second pitch of Saturday night’s game and ripped it foul into the seats down the right field line, the 96.5 mph reading registered similar feelings of alarm.
But Crochet had a little more in the tank this time. He topped out at 98.9 mph on his 13th pitch of the evening, and had 97s in a couple of sequences after that. He also couldn’t have done better in terms of outs, retiring all seven of the batters he faced to finish the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Three came by strikeout, and three were softly hit, with Dexter Fowler’s first-pitch flyout the only notable ball in play.
But it’s undoubtedly a different Crochet, as evidenced by the number of changeups after reaching the halfway point of his 26 pitches. The guy who used the offspeed offering only four times over 81 pitches in 2020 threw four* of them over the course of 13 pitches.
(*Statcast says he threw one four-seam fastball that registered at 93.1 mph, in between a 98 mph fastball and a 92 mph changeup.)
Visually, the changeup doesn’t look like a baffler, although it seemed to do the job:
The absence of any kind of minor-league history for Crochet makes it a lot harder to know exactly what any of this means. Between the lack of a workload, the narrow one-inning usage and the adrenaline/fight-or-flight response of facing major-league hitters with no other professional experience, last year’s version of Crochet might be impossible to replicate. It’s a different task this time based on season length alone, and if he’s expected to go multiple innings most times out, that changes the calculus still. Perhaps the first impression he made was as impressive as it was unfair, the baseball equivalent of taking a funny car and putting it on a grand prix track.
We’ve seen enough White Sox pitchers lose velocity shortly after college — Zack Burdi, Carson Fulmer, Bernardo Flores Jr. among them — that we can’t take team personnel for granted when they say it’s going to come back during the season. We’ve also seen the kind of struggles that ensue when power pitchers lose a couple ticks, so I’m aware of the potential dangers lurking when teams start planning for 97 and a changeup. The good news is that 97 can still play if there’s enough life and/or deception, and Crochet’s first line of the season did what it could to alleviate the interim worries.
(Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire)
3 whiffs on 26 pitches, none of them on the fastball. Can’t tell if that’s a good or bad sign.
I would think this aligns to him becoming a starter down the road. He needs to learn how to pitch, not just throw 101. Changing speeds on his fastball between 95-99 will add to the deception. If he can consistently locate it, you’re looking at a top of the rotation starter.
Plus, I am hoping he’s still building strength gradually as he did have the strain at the end of last season. Perhaps the Sox’ conservative approach will avoid further injury all while having him come in for 2-3 effective innings in relief.
I’m gonna go with that Crochet was told to watch out his 100 MPH pitches. Maybe he is trying to pitch rather than blowing away every batter with a 100 MPH fastball. Health preservation measure. Maybe he was told that he was very close to needing a TJ surgery. I really like that Crochet we saw yesterday. There was a couple or so pitches that induce a swing where the hitter looked silly. He will be our Hader. Kopech will go to the rotation once the inevitable Rondon’s IL stint knocks the door.
The quotes from Katz make no indication that they told him to tone it down. While I agree that holding back to avoid injury may be advisable—and wondered aloud during the offseason if he should do that—after reading the stories about this, I don’t think that it’s intentional. And a Crochet who doesn’t get whiffs on his fastball is a much different pitcher.
this is going to be a serious red flag for me for the foreseeable future. he has to show he can do this well and stay healthy for a while (months?) before we’re not in classic “diminished velocity is a concern” territory.
I wrote something about this on that other site. White Sox pitchers, for the most part, made velocity gains during the season. Quintana and Jones were big examples of this, picking up at least 2 mph in velocity in season. They’d then start the next season at the same level they were at the start of the previous season. As of now, I’m not worried.