The four-seam fastball is going to hold up as Asher Wojciechowski’s primary pitch in 2020, with his slider and cutter still representing the main secondary stuff. However, he’s been devoting a large chunk of his winter workouts to gaining trust in a fourth pitch.
Give the hitters something else to think about. Expand the repertoire and perhaps last longer in games.
Wojciechowski barely used his changeup as the year progressed - never more than 3.28 percent in August to down to 1.17 percent in September per BrooksBaseball.net. The season usage has declined from 12.86 percent with the Astros in 2015 to 10.97 percent with the Reds in 2017 to 2.29 percent in 2019.
Here’s how BrooksBaseball.net breaks down the pitch:
“His change is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers’ changeups, results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ changeups, has a lot of backspin and is slightly firmer than usual.”
Wojciechowski decided that he was ready to tinker.
“Something I’ve been working on all offseason is developing a changeup,” he said Thursday night on the “Orioles Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan. “I’ve had a changeup. It’s been a pitch I’ve gotten hurt with, so I’ve been developing a grip that I’m comfortable with and I’m excited to see how it works in spring training.”
Wojciechowski keeps learning more about himself despite being 31 and a veteran of eight organizations during his professional career, including two stops with the Orioles, who are engaged in the teaching process with the data made available to him.
“Definitely with my four-seam fastball, it’s a pitch that I can pitch up in the zone with. That was a pitch that I really had to learn throughout my years in the minor leagues what works for me,” he said.
“With all the different organizations I’ve been with, certain organizations want you to throw sinkers and only throw down in the zone. I learned quickly that I can’t throw sinkers and I can’t execute down in the zone with the sinker. So I really had to learn the hard way there understanding where my fastball plays. And lately with the analytics and reading the numbers, and even with the naked eye, you can see that my fastball played up in the zone. I can pitch at the top of the zone with my fastball and get swings and misses.
“Now, I can’t pitch middle of the zone at the top of the zone, but I still stick to the corners just as if you were a sinkerball pitcher who’s trying to pitch down in the zone. What I do with my fastball is I stick to the corners, but I think more up and in, up and away. And then with my big breaking ball, I can tunnel that off my fastball that’s up, throw that for a strike. And then with my sharper cutter, I can tunnel that off my fastball as well, so I have potentially three pitches that look the same coming out of the hand, but move a lot differently.”
The changeup would give him a fourth as he tries to make only his second opening day roster in the majors.
Wojciechowski is a heavy favorite to slot in the middle of the rotation, with any potential movement down coming if the Orioles sign a veteran starter.
The 82 1/3 innings logged by Wojciechowski last summer were a career high in the majors and raised his total to 161 over parts of three seasons. He’s thrown 951 in the minors, giving him a veteran feel despite limited exposure at the highest level.
“That’s how I look at myself,” he said. “Even though I don’t have a lot of major league experience, I do have a lot of experience. So even though I’m at 160 career innings in the big leagues, I have over 1,000 innings in professional baseball. So I don’t look at myself as a young guy or somebody who doesn’t have much experience.
“I look at myself as a leader and a competitor, and I’m going to come in and I’m going to do my best to help whoever needs it. I’m going to do my best to lead. I’m just going to be me and see what happens.”
Wojciechowski has seven years’ worth of Triple-A experience, where he’s accumulated 635 of his innings. The Orioles rescued him from Columbus last summer while desperate for a starter, his 3.61 ERA and 1.157 WHIP in 15 games and competitive nature making him an attractive option.
They liked his approach. They needed anyone who could give them competitive outings and spare the bullpen.
“I’ll say that I’ve been a slower learner my whole life, so to say I needed that much time, I wish I didn’t have to have that much time in Triple-A,” he said. “I wish that time was in the big leagues. But I’ve learned a lot throughout my career. Learned what type of pitcher I am, what my strengths are, and really just learned to stick with my strengths and be who I am and not try to be a different type of pitcher.
“Know the type of pitcher that I am and understand what works for me and go from there.”
Note: Zion Lutheran’s 10th Annual Hot Stove Talk is Thursday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m., featuring former Orioles pitcher and current MASN analyst Dave Johnson and The Athletic’s Dan Connolly.
There is no admission fee for the event, but a freewill offering will be accepted to assist the church’s youth ministry in fundraising for the 2021 National Youth Gathering in Minneapolis
For more information, contact the church at 717-767-4673.