Kris Bubic tore it up Thursday night striking out 11 Woodpeckers in a complete game victory for the Blue Rocks. Bubic set a career high in pitches thrown and innings worked in the dominate performance. With 1 out in the bottom of the 9th and a runner on third, Bubic gave up a sacrifice fly to RF Brewer Hicklen. Bubic had been given the chance to throw a shutout and came up one out short.
I watched Bubic’s start with interest to see what he did that was so effective. I also did a Film Study I did on Kris Bubic from April 12, 2019. I recommend you read it again either before or after this one to compare what he is doing and what he has changed for yourself.
At two different points in this game, Bubic had consecutive batters retired streaks in double digits. One streak of 12 and the other streak of 11.
The number one key for Bubic in this game was absolutely his strike throwing ability. Not just his overall 73.0 percent rate, but his off speed rates. Bubic threw 23 of 31 change ups for a strike. What was really impressive to me was that he threw his curve 17 of 21 times for a strike. That is incredible because pitchers waste curves in the dirt at times. And Bubic did that in this start a few times as well. I threw some low quality video together and posted two of his curves specifically which generated some amazing swings and misses. By the way, Bubic walked the first batter of the game and only had three three-ball counts the rest of the night.
The second key for Bubic in this start was how well he threw his change up. The pitch is incredible. Not only was it coming in 12 to 14 mph slower than his fastball, it had terrific arm side movement. The hardest fastball I recorded Bubic throwing was 94 mph while he was working around 92 most of the night. The change ups were all right around 78 to 80 mph meaning there was a 16 mph differential at times. I was able to watch Jackson Kowar from behind the plate last night and it was incredibly difficult to pick up his change and his had a differential of 10 to 12 mph. I think Bubic’s change might be better when you factor in command and movement.
Of Bubic’s 11 strikeouts, 6 came on fastballs, 3 on curves, and 2 on change ups. Of those fastball strikeouts, three were up above the zone and three were 2-seams at the front hip of a RHH working back over the inside corner. Early, Bubic was using the glove side curve to try to put hitters away. He then started really working at the top of the zone with the fastball paired with the curve.
Bubic used the first pitch fastball fairly often in this game. He mixed up the second pitch of at bats very well keeping hitters off balance all night. The pitch that impressed me the most was the change up at the RHH’s front hip. It came back across the plate and he stole multiple strikes with this pitch. Hitters often didn’t attempt to hit it because it fooled them but a few did and did not have much success. The pitch is very effective at messing with timing.
Another thing I noticed was that Bubic really uses the top third of the strike zone with his fastball. Most of the fastballs he throws are 4-seam fastballs but he does mix that 2-seam in at times. I would guess that Bubic’s spin rate is very high because hitters don’t do a good job with that high fastball. There were only a handful of times that Bubic tried to work his fastball to the lower third of the zone. This approach does have a lot of success in the big leagues so I don’t see any reason why he would have to change this going forward unless he just wants to use the quadrants of the zone more.
This was Bubic’s second start against the Woodpeckers this season. In those two outings he has thrown 15.0 innings, allowed 1 run on 9 hits and 2 walks, and has struck out 21 batters. It is safe to say so far that he owns the Woodpeckers and they probably hope not to face him again.
If you haven’t read the other Film Study on Bubic I wrote back in April, you can’t make comparisons for yourself. Here are a few things I noticed when I went back and looked at my notes from that Film Study. Bubic used his change up much more in this start than in the last one. He used his change up to get back into counts in the last game and in this game he used it while he was ahead in the count and even though he was behind only a few times, continued to use it to get back into counts.
Bubic is still using his fastball at the RHHs front hip as a strike out pitch and still having success with it. He doesn’t do it often, but when he does it freezes guys. He did use the curve in to RHHs, but not as often as he did in the start back in April. Perhaps he knew he didn’t have to in this start, or has gone away from it a little bit, but I do like when he goes back foot because it gets swings and misses. He will have to do that when he gets to the Royals.
Perhaps the biggest thing when comparing the two starts was Bubic’s velocity was up. Bubic was working up to 94 in this one when he didn’t break 92 in the last one. I think a lot of this has to do with the summer heat and the fact his arm is in better shape now than it was in early-April. Bubic hit 93 with his 110th pitch in this game which shows us that he can hold his velo deep into games. If you’re trying to make it to the majors as a starter, being able to hold your velo is very valuable.
Image from Kris Bubic’s twitter account.