Detroit Tigers: Could a below average pitch be propelling Matt Manning?

Aug 24, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Matt Manning (25) pitches in the second inning against the San Francisco Giants at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 24, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Matt Manning (25) pitches in the second inning against the San Francisco Giants at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /
facebooktwitterreddit

Matt Manning has thrown more sliders in his past two starts; both of which have come with excellent results for him and the Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers starter Matt Manning is the latest example of why player evaluation has become so difficult in today’s player development era in baseball. There was a time in which many, including myself, felt that Matt Manning held the highest upside among their strong quartet of starters. Tarik Skubal threw way too many fastballs for his game to translate. Casey Mize showed promise but struggled to put everything together after his no-hitter with Erie, and Alex Faedo’s velocity dipped and ultimately led to Tommy John.

Manning had many of the physical ingredients that scouts look for in a starter: long limbs, high waist, athleticism, and extension. Many wondered, though, if he would ever find a full arsenal. Much of his game throughout the minors relied on a fastball/curveball combination. The righty had been working on a changeup that showed flashes, but even in his Triple-A appearances, the offering lacked consistency and desired velocity.

Manning would ultimately get called up out of necessity last season–the organization even acknowledged as much. But over time Manning has steadily improved, even through an arm injury this season–and his last two starts show the makings of what many felt he might become all thanks to a pitch that didn’t exist for him a couple of years ago: a slider.

It’s a tough pitch to learn, especially with Manning’s near over-the-top slot and the fact he already threw a big curveball. That pitch, though, was thrown more than his averages across 2022 thus far. On Aug. 19 against the Angels, Manning threw 25–by far his primary secondary pitch of the day, generating 12 called strikes plus whiffs, and a rock-solid 48 called strike plus whiff percentage.

It was more of the same the following start against the Giants; where he threw 35 % sliders; with 12 whiffs and 8 called strikes. The results suggest that Manning’s slider is a good pitch for him and his usage suggests he believes in it, but in terms of movement, it’s pretty pedestrian.

Manning’s vertical movement on his slider is 8 inches below average at 29.7 inches. For reference, Eduardo Rodriguez’s slider has 37.5 inches of vertical drop. Interestingly enough, though, both of his last two starts also featured vertical movement below his season averages; suggesting there wasn’t any new development that has boosted the pitch’s effectiveness recently.

Sample sizes might play a role here–but it does feel that Manning’s sequencing has been less predictable and the pitch has played better off his fastball as of late (which he has seemed to show better command of as of late, too). It’s strange to think a pitch he has learned on the fly could be the difference in his recent success, but it shouldn’t be ruled out. If this is the Matt Manning we’ll get moving forward, it bodes well for a Detroit Tigers rotation already without Casey Mize and potentially Tarik Skubal in 2023.

Next. Detroit Tigers: 5 dream GM candidates. dark

facebooktwitterreddit