Why the obsession with Wacha's arsenal?

Posted by Scott Wuerz on April 8, 2014 

I heard again on the radio this morning about how fortunate St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha is to winning games with ONLY two pitches.

First, that statement isn't correct. Wacha threw four pitches in his home opener start against the Cincinnati Reds: Fastballs, cutters, curves and change-ups.

He might throw more fastballs and change-ups than the other two. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have those pitches at his disposal. Nor does it mean that they're not up to par. The fact that he's stuck primarily to two of the four pitches in his trick bag means only one thing to me -- he's smart.

Wacha is going to face the Reds as well as the other teams in the National League Central multiple times. And all the other teams he's going to face have scouts and video cameras that are picking apart every pitch Wacha throws. 

So why show all the cards in your hand when you don't need to?

Wacha is 5-1 with a 2.44 ERA in 10 regular season starts and 4-1 with a 2.64 ERA in five post-season starts. It's hard to complain about results like that.

But if people watched closely when Wacha made his second appearance against the same team, he mixed his secondary pitches in more frequently to give batters a different look. Against the Los Angeles Dodgers, it worked with spectacular results. He was hammered in his second appearance against the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. But I chalk that up less to pitch selection and more to the fact that everyone has a bad game now and then. And if he has one stinker every 16 starts, you're a pretty awesome major league pitcher.

While Wacha doesn't throw his curveball a lot. But he's not afraid to throw it in any situation. I've seen him throw strikes with the curve 3-0 and 3-2. If he's got confidence he can get it over the plate -- and past the hitter -- in those spots, I feel pretty comfortable that it's a quality pitch that we'll all see more of pretty soon.

And if we don't, the Cardinals used to have this guy who was a pretty good pitcher that only threw two pitches. His name was Bob Gibson.

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