Gavin Floyd makes his first start, his curveball? Eh, maybe next week


A cutter? An unconventional slider? Let's just call it, "an effective pitch". // John Sleezer, McClatchy-Tribune

Like Blu Cantrell in that mediocre R&B video from 2001 where her boyfriend cheats on her and she responds by essentially committing credit card fraud, I bought hard on Gavin Floyd's 2011 season being extra, extra great.

All his peripherals suggested at better results, a boosted offense promised to unnaturally bloat his win totals, and the mid-summer of 2010 saw Gavin pitch a level of baseball that well, really defied any reasonable expectations for someone traded for mediocre-Freddy Garcia.  While expecting him to bottle that wild two month-or-so stretch and post a 2.00 ERA year would be a case of the crazies, a smoother start to season could do some wonders, no?

Well, Floyd being right from the start of the season may take more than
just saying so and waving my hands at the screen during his winding up. 
More than anyone else on the Sox rotation, Floyd is dependent on
developing his feel for off-speed breaking pitches, namely, the 1-to-7
curveball that launched him into the league.

On Tuesday night, that feel was absent.  According to PitchFX, Floyd
threw only 15 curves all night, and only 4 of them for strikes. 
Moreover, he only threw 3 of them in last 3 innings, all of them balls. 
He wasn't close, so he ditched it--not unlike Blu Cantrell ditched her
lover in the aforementioned mediocre R&B video--and never looked

As J.J. Stankevitz examined
and FanGraphs pitch types confirms, Floyd's reliance on his curve has
gone the way of LeBron James' Q-ratings in recent years.  It's clear
why.  He trusts his slider more, and doing so leaves him less vulnerable to utter
disaster when his command is lacking, and this was pretty clearly on
display Tuesday night versus the Royals.

Floyd's control was spotty early, and he was punished for four runs in
the first two innings.  He responded by parsing down his pallet, throwing
30 sliders--which PitchFX reads as a cutter, which is amusing because criticism of his slider mostly centers on how much it resembles a cutter--for 23 strikes, and 8 swings and misses.  In all, it allowed him to grit his way through 7 innings with 5 Ks.

This kind of adapting on the fly is nice--and would have been nicer if
it occurred before 4 runs scored--but quite frankly, Floyd needs to have
his curve to be an elite pitcher.  It's been an above average pitch the
last three seasons in a row, and Gavin needs it to counteract a
fastball that doesn't have enough movement to be used consistently to
work the strike zone, and get ahead in counts...not without strong contact at least.

Gavin's effort Tuesday night,--which was of course later ruined by the
bullpen--was impressive, but to justify my crazy hopes for him, his feel
for his curveball has to become more consistent.  That kind of sounds
like same old, same old for Floyd, but with his secondary stuff and the self-awareness he displayed, he's closer than ever.

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