Detwiler delivers few surprises but exceptional results

So let me get this straight: Bryce Harper missed Tuesday’s game with flu-like symptoms and was still feeling ill on Wednesday, but talked his way into the Nationals’ lineup anyway.

Harper told reporters in Miami that he threw up during the second inning during last night’s game and felt his head spinning at the plate.

Then he goes out and smacks four hits, including a double, and drives in a run.

This guy is something special, all right. And at this point, I truly don’t understand any baseball fan who still is unwilling to appreciate Harper’s skill-set, dedication to the game and competitiveness.

When you look at the numbers from Ross Detwiler’s start last night, it’s fair to wonder how the heck the Nationals left-hander is able to have success.

Detwiler threw 107 pitches last night, 100 of which were fastballs. His first off-speed pitch didn’t come until his 25th delivery of the night.

This use of the heater was by no means specific to just last night’s outing. Detwiler has thrown fastballs 91.8 percent of the time over the course of his three starts this season, according to FanGraphs.

Yet, despite Detwiler’s heavy use of the heater, he’s still managed to frustrate hitters, allowing just two earned runs over his three outings.

One of the main reasons Detwiler can have so much success despite throwing fastballs so frequently is because his two- and four-seam fastballs are two totally different pitches with different movement. The two-seamer dives downward as it approaches the plate, inducing ground balls and expanding the zone vertically. The four-seamer has some run to it, but lacks the vertical movement of the sinker. A hitter might know something hard is coming at him, but he doesn’t know whether it’s the straight four-seamer or if it’s the two-seamer and will drop at the last second.

Detwiler averages 93.3 mph with his four-seam fastball, while his two-seamer comes in a touch slower at 91.9 mph. His overall fastball velocity ranks second in the National League among left-handed starters.

He’ll throw an off-speed pitch every now and then, using his curveball and changeup to keep hitters honest. After starting out with those 24 straight fastballs last night, and with Detwiler having an 0-2 count on the Marlins’ Miguel Olivo, Detwiler decided to finally break off a curve. Olivo had seen nothing but heaters from Detwiler to that point and had no reason to believe he would get anything off-speed.

The curve got him flailing for strike three, and Olivo turned back to have a seat in the Marlins’ dugout.

But unlike most pitchers, Detwiler only uses his curveball and changeup occasionally. You’ll often hear pitchers say that the best pitch they can throw is a well-located fastball, and that’s something that Detwiler has started to embrace over time.

Former Nationals reliever Michael Gonzalez had countless conversations with Detwiler last season trying to reinforce that message. Attack hitters, Gonzalez would say, telling Detwiler that his mix of velocity and location - especially from a left-hander - was good enough to get hitters out.

It’s taken a few years, but Detwiler has clearly evolved as a pitcher since being chosen by the Nats in the first round of the 2007 draft. He goes after hitters now, knowing his best is good enough to beat their best the majority of the time, even when they have a good idea that a fastball is coming at them.

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