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Pitchers shine brightest in MLB tour of spring training

SARASOTA, Fla. – One of the most enjoyable things I get to do every year is spend a week at spring training, catching baseball games and taking notes. The opportunity to combine in-person observations with statistical information helps me feel more prepared going into the upcoming season.

So what stood out on this year’s fantasy tour of the Grapefruit League?

Change is good: In some respects, Aaron Nola’s 2019 season was a disappointment, especially after he emerged as a Cy Young contender the year before. He’s tweaking his pitch mix this spring to incorporate his changeup more often.

“I think (throwing) something other than just a fastball, curveball is important, especially for a starting pitcher,” Nola said. “It’s a pitch I’m working on still, trying to be consistent with it.”

In this game I saw, the Phillies right-hander struck out six batters in two innings – with a couple of them coming on the changeup. Nola credits being able to throw the change for strikes as one of the keys to his success two seasons ago.

Tigers left-hander Matthew Boyd struck out 238 batters in 2019, but also allowed the second-most home runs (39) of any pitcher in the majors.

Change is good, part 2: For two months last season, Detroit’s Matthew Boyd was one of the AL’s best pitchers. At the beginning of June, he had a 2.85 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, while striking out 10.9 batters per nine innings.

Then he started giving up home runs in bunches – 32 of them in 112 2/3 innings – which led to a 5.67 ERA and 1.37 WHIP over his final 20 starts. Boyd’s home-run rate of 1.89 per nine innings was the highest in the majors among qualified starters.

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