Tuesday, March 28, 2023

How Matt Swarmer’s Unique Slider Is Bringing the 28-Year-Old Chicago Cubs to Big League Success

How Matt Swarmer'S Unique Slider Is Bringing The 28-Year-Old Chicago Cubs To Big League Success

Chicago Cubs rookie Matt Swarmer knows that his high extended leg kick is reminiscent of another big league pitcher.

“People always ask me, ‘Do you get this from Bronson Arroyo? Swarmer told the Tribune. “I developed it on my own.

“But I like to tell people it’s from Arroyo,” he said with a laugh, “because I don’t know how to explain it sometimes.”

The 28-year-old right-hander is making the most of his unexpected call-up this week. Days after Swarmer’s big-league debut on Monday, he was still in shock as the magnitude of reaching the majors for the former 19th-round pick kept sinking.

And after Saturday’s 6-1 win in Game 1 against the St. Louis Cardinals – his first win in the second start of his career – Swarmer searched for words again.

“Oh man, that’s unbelievable,” Swarmer said on Saturday. “I’ve always thought about being here, and now I’m competing with the best people. Oh, that’s great. I’m living in the moment right now.”

“I’ve always seen those guys on TV, and now that I’ve got a chance to face them, it’s really special in that moment. I’ve got to soak it all up.”

In both starts Swarmer opposed an earned run in six innings, combining 11 strikeouts and three walks. At the core of his success is a lousy slider. He produced 13 shocks with his slider on Saturday after producing 10 on Monday. A further 12 sliders on two starts resulted in a strike called.

“When he’s at his best, he has a unique slider — the way he moves out of his hand, the way he moves,” pitching coach Tommy Hotovi told the Tribune. “A lot of times you’ve seen people have two pitches that are power pitches, but they also have the ability to move that slider around and locate it where it’s needed. As long as he can control those two pitches and move them around, you can do great things.

“Sometimes people get here and they try to do too much. He’s not the kind of person who will try to do more than he knows he can.”

The swarmer relies on two pitches – a four-seam fastball and a slider – at a frequency that is unusual for a major league debut. Through two starts with the Cubs, he took 97.2% of his pitches.

But it’s his ability to manipulate his slider, essentially creating two pitch sizes, that makes pitch pitching so effective. When the swarmer wants to put a hitter down in the zone or even just trying to get the pitch above the plate, he will take some of his slider and sometimes get more around the baseball. If he stays on top of the ball with his slider grip, it makes a sharp vertical break.

The key to his success is to keep the same arm angle when using each slider type, while also aiming it away from his fastball. Swarmer initially used his slider grip in 2018 but lost it during the 2019 season. Until last July to finally get it back where he wanted it.

“For a hitter like this, you have to be very selective about where you’re going to throw because they’ll hit it if it’s around the plate,” Swarmer said.

The success of mixing the two pitches in his big league career does not mean that he is abandoning the development of the third pitch, a change. Swarmer knows he will need to become more involved on the pitch as teams prepare a scouting report against him. Of the 178 pitches he bowled in his first two starts, only five were changes.

Swarmer believes he can get hold of a change that works for him, but he continues to tinker.

“The only way I’ll know if it’s good is if I throw it at the hitters,” Swarmer said. “And if I don’t, you basically won’t know until you encounter hitters like this.”

Hotovi said it comes down to finding the low-leverage position or identifying the right hitter to deploy the change. Before the adoption of designated hitters by the National League, pitcher spots used to be a good opportunity to work in a developing pitch.

“On the other hand, we want guys to attack with their own strength,” Hotovi said, “and one thing that has an advantage with pitchers is that the hitter doesn’t know when we’re going to break a new one. pitch.”

Swarmer’s stellar first two starts – against division rivals no less – serves as a great jumping-off point for taking the next step as a big league pitcher. For the swarmer, that includes locking down all aspects: honing your change, controlling the running game and in-game situations, and using the strategy side.

In minor leagues, a lot of success can come from just executing pitches and getting outs. With the Cubs, Swarmer will need to prove he can work through a lineup and mix his pitches well enough to keep hitters guessing.

But perhaps most importantly, Hottowee wants Swarmer to keep having fun and be himself because that’s a big part of what made him so good.

“I worked very hard for this,” Swarmer said. “In minor league, you just have to stay true to yourself and say, hey, if you just keep working, you’ll have a chance to be successful one day. I just kept competing and I thank God that I’m here.”


Nation World News Desk
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