The first image that comes to my mind when I think of Carl Edwards Jr. is a cutting four-seam fastball that explodes on hitters at up to 98 mph. But recently, that trademark heater has not been there for the usually dominant reliever.
First and foremost, Edwards’ whiff rate of only 21 percent since August 1 (13.2 IP) is a steep drop from the whopping 37 percent previously. I cannot emphasize just how weird it is for a pitcher to suddenly not generate whiffs. He’s posting matching 6.59 K/9 and BB/9 marks in the same stretch, far cries from his 14.01 K/9 and 3.52 BB/9 prior to August. What’s going on?
Edwards hasn’t thrown cutters with as much horizontal movement compared to earlier points in the season. Since August 1, those pitches have cut with an average 0.9 inches of movement, nearly 40 percent flatter than what he generated before.
Maybe the flatter four-seamer is due to a release point that has shifted further towards the third base side. Since the start of August, the Stringbean Slinger has been letting go of the pitch 12 percent further away from his body, something that may be negligible to the human eye.
This change in release point could be just a random mechanical hiccup, or it could be a result of the shoulder fatigue that sidelined Edwards for all of June. We can’t really know for certain. What seems pretty clear, however, is that the sudden inability to induce whiffs is probably a direct results of his flatter fastball.
With Brandon Morrow’s return still very much in question, the Cubs are going to need Edwards to return to form. And that means getting his four-seam back to breaking left-handers’ bats and causing right-handers to whiff excessively.