Some thoughts on Asa Lacy’s last start

After striking out 9 batters in 4.1 IP on Friday night, Asa Lacy’s current season stats look like this:

23 IP (7 starts), 14.09 K/9 (34% K%), 7.43 BB/9 (17.9% BB%), 1.17 HR/9 (14.3% HR/FB), 6.65 ERA, 4.97 FIP

If you remove the first two starts he made, his first two professional starts that totaled 4 combined IP, his numbers are a little better:

19 IP (5 starts), 12.79 K/9 (33.3% K%), 3.79 BB/9 (9.9% BB%), 1.42 HR/9, 5.68 ERA, 4.27 FIP

The first two innings of his professional debut were wildly impressive. After that, his control over the course of the rest of his first two starts was erratic as hell. He appeared to be over throwing a bit and couldn’t really control the strike zone with any kind of meaningful authority. I’ve noticed since that he misses in a couple of very specific spots quite often. Let’s go ahead and get right to it. I’m going to post the thread from Twitter with all five of Lacy’s first five pitches from his outing last night.

If you’ve got any kind of a baseball eye, really, it’s not terribly difficult to spot what these pitches all have in common. All five pitches were supposed to be fastballs down and in on RHH. Catcher Michael Emodi did a great job of setting a clear target for Lacy. Given that all five of the first five pitches that Lacy threw were supposed to be the exact same pitch, I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is something the pitching staff wanted him to be working on. He did not get a single one of these five pitches to its desired location.

It looks to me like Lacy is trying too hard to hit a spot and not focused enough on just letting the pitch fly. The total opposite of what his first two starts looked like. There has to be a happy median in there somewhere for a pitcher to really thrive. The fact that he missed on what was honestly probably 90% of his inside fastballs last night could lead to a couple of different takeaways:

  1. Lacy’s mechanics are all out of whack and he has no idea where the ball is going, or
  2. Lacy has a specific mechanical glitch right now that is forcing everything into one “zone”

All five of those misses were high and arm side. It kind of reminds me of some of the control issues that Kris Bubic was having last year, if we’re looking for other examples. But this is totally different than the type of control issues that Jackson Kowar had in his big league debut. Kowar was missing all over the place. High, low, inside, outside…he appeared to be jittery and couldn’t make the same movements twice if he wanted to. Lacy is basically making the exact same pitch and delivery without any real sign of an adjustment. This is just five pitches, but this is what Lacy looked like for most of the night when Emodi called for an inside fastball. Even his first strikeout was a pretty wide miss:

There were a few exceptions (looking at the pitch for K #2 here):

And K #4 as well:

And K #8:

So we’re looking at K’s #2, #4, and #8 here. All three punch outs came from fastballs that, if they didn’t get to the inside corner, were at least on the inner half of the plate. Lacy’s fastball is a bear to deal with. If he’s putting it on the inner half of the plate like this, A-ball hitters won’t touch it. It’s too much. It’s thrown too hard, spins too fast, from too tough of an angle to get to. The only real chance these guys have is if Lacy leaves a fastball out over the plate and hopefully up in the zone.

I would need an open-faced angle to really give you an idea of WHY Lacy keeps missing arm side, but often times this is stems from something we call a “stiff front side.” The pitcher doesn’t get through his hips fast enough and the arm stays behind, now allowing them to get in on opposite-handed hitters. Is this the specific case for Lacy? I’m not sure. The good news (and it is good news!) is that seemingly all of his misses were similarly located on Friday, meaning there isn’t like 12 things they’re going to have to help him fix. 1-2 adjustments ought to do it in the long run.

Here’s an example of him doing this with a breaking ball (ignore the first pitch, the changeup, that was really good):

K #5 was another good example:

This is what I would call “over compensating.” Lacy knows he’s been missing up and arm side so he tries a little too hard to get to the hitters back foot and just spikes it 10 feet in front of home plate. Here’s a breaking ball he threw really late in the outing that may have been the loosest he looked all day for K #6:

Same thing here for K #9:

He did a really good job locating his offspeed stuff tonight. For the most part, anyway. Especially compared to his previous starts. Check out these changeups (K #3):

He doesn’t look super comfortable throwing the pitch, but those are some ugly swings and misses.

I don’t know if this next pitch was supposed to be more of a cutter than a slider, if Lacy did it on purpose or not, but the action on this pitch was an excellent 0-0 offering to a new hitter:

Lacy’s slider and curveball have pretty distinct breaks, giving him four different pitches. Having a fifth pitch in his back pocket would be pretty neat for his development if he can throw it consistently.

My big takeaways from this outing for Lacy:

#1: His control issues are definitely something that he’s going to have to work through, but they aren’t alarming at the moment, I don’t think. It would worry me if he was missing all over the place with no clue where the ball was going. That doesn’t appear to be what’s going on here. Lacy legitimately looks like he’s a couple adjustments away from being normal again. That doesn’t mean those adjustments will be easy, by any means, just that he’s not going to need to be totally torn down and rebuilt.

#2: His stuff is too good for A+ hitters. I don’t think he gave up a single hit last night when he hit his spot. There were even times when I felt like he was aiming the ball instead of letting it rip, and he hit his spot and didn’t get touched. Both HR he gave up were fastballs I think he took something off of AND missed his spot by a lot. If he gave it everything he had, they wouldn’t be getting hit. The hits he gives up appear to be 100% a result of command issues, not a lack of stuff.

#3: I wonder what adjustments Lacy is trying to make? He doesn’t look 100% comfortable on the mound. He looks like he’s trying WAY too hard to figure something out. To feel himself over the plate. Is that a result of walking 11 batters in his first 4 professional innings? Maybe. It’s weird because in his first outing of the season, he struck out 5 of the first 8 batters that he faced. And, to be totally honest, looked looser and freer than he did last night. Then like, all of a sudden, he walks 11 of the next 17 batters he faces over the course of his next two starts. I don’t know that he did anything to himself physically but it was a REALLY weird sequence of events that, if I had to guess, he’s still kind of trying to iron out at present.

#4: He’s probably going to be just fine. His stuff is too good. We knew command wasn’t the strongest part of his game when he was drafted. He’ll figure out how to make it work and then soar through the minors. The kid is fun to watch when he’s on. When he’s hitting spots, the swings he gets are laughable. Should we be concerned about his command issues? Meh. Not yet. If it’s August 1 and we’re dealing with the same problems then maybe. But right now I think we’re okay to take away the positives: his stuff is just too good for most MiLB hitters.

2 thoughts on “Some thoughts on Asa Lacy’s last start

  1. Pingback: Minor League Minutes: 6/14/2021 | Royals Farm Report

  2. Pingback: The success of the Royals’ farm system was one of the better stories in 2021 – The Royals Reporter

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