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Jason Motte needs a secondary pitch

Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2012, at 10:05 AM

By COREY NOLES

Motte impressed the Cardinals in 2011 when his high-speed fast balls closed games through not only the season, but October as well.

His four-seam fastball, that sits around 97-99 mph, befuddled hitters throughout the second half of the season all the way through the World Series. Combined with his cutter, the pitch looked even faster than it is.

In 2012, however, his fastball isn't having the same success that it did last year.

The simple fact of the matter is, if major league hitters look at your fastball long enough, eventually they will learn to catch it. That's what we're watching unfold before our eyes this year.

To date, Motte is 3-and-3 with a 3.71 ERA. He's still close to on pace to reach last year's strikeout totals, but his homerun total is the concern. In 2011 Motte surrendered only two homeruns. So far, in 2012, he has given up four. While that's not a mountain of homeruns, it's definitely something to be concerned about.

Another area of Motte's performance that has changed is the number of walks he has given up. In all of 2011 he walked only 16 batters. In 2012 he has already given 10 passes putting him on pace to nearly double last year's total.

Why is Motte struggling this year? Batters are getting used to his fastball.

Like I said earlier, you can't throw only fastballs forever and not expect major league hitters to eventually figure you out. It will happen. It has happened.

Right now, Motte is a hard thrower. He needs to become a good pitcher. In order to do that he needs to expand his arsenal to include a breaking pitch of some sort.

He has a cutter that he was quite successful with in 2011, but he hasn't thrown it much at all in 2012.

As of Tuesday morning, Motte has thrown his four-seam fastball 66 percent of the time, according to Brooks Baseball, a site that studies and analyzes pitches. Here is the breakdown of his other pitches:

Sinker - 13 percent

Cutter - 18 percent

Changeup - 3 percent

A good changeup would be a plus for Motte, but in the very few times he has thrown it this year, he has only gotten batters to swing 31 percent of the time. With his fastball that number is 52 percent.

Given that he's only thrown the changeup 13 times, I don't necessarily consider that "developing a pitch." It's possible that he's working on that behind the scenes, but at this point the fastball and cutter are the only pitches we're seeing and we're not seeing enough of the cutter.

In order to make the successful transition from hard thrower to major league pitcher, a good offspeed pitch is a must. The main reason being, with a fastball like Motte's, a quality offspeed delivery could throw a hitter's timing so far out of whack it might never come back.

Motte definitely has the potential, and with a better arsenal to attack batters with, I believe he could turn into one of the premiere closers in Major League Baseball.

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To submit a question for the Balls & Strikes Mailbag, either e-mail cnoles@dailystatesman.com, call (573)624-4545, or fill out the form at dailystatesman.com/blogs/coreynoles/

Follow him on Twitter @coreynoles



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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.

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