So I am going to be brief here because Eickhoff has now qualified for my offseason series on graduated prospects so I want to save a lot of the big picture stuff for that. What I really want to do is react to the development of his curveball.
Eickhoff mentioned recently that it took him a few starts to get a feel for his curveball due to the seams on the baseball. After the trade and in Lehigh Valley the curveball had been his best pitch and out pitch. The raw pitch count numbers show his increasing confidence in the pitch in the majors.
The success with the pitch has been immediate and in his last 4 starts (against the Cubs, Nats, Braves, and Mets) his numbers have been fantastic has he has gone 28.0 innings with a 0.96 ERA, allowing 17 hits and 7 walks, while striking out 33.
The curveball is an important part of Eickhoff’s arsenal because his fastball has been more average (90-93) in the majors and his slider is a solid pitch but doesn’t carry his arsenal. Neither of those pitches help Eickhoff against left handed hitters and his changeup has really lagged. Additionally the curveball gives Eickhoff a vertical component to Eickhoff’s arsenal allowing him to change the eye level of hitter.
The curveball itself has good movement and bite. What makes it really good is that Eickhoff has shown command of the pitch and can drop it into the strikezone for a called strike and break it out of the zone for a chase. But what makes the pitch all come together with his arsenal is the release point. Here are the vertical and horizontal release points of all of Eickhoff’s pitches.
Most pitchers have some minor deviations in their release points on different pitches and we can see that the slider, changeup, and sinker deviate off the fastball. The big thing is that the fastball and curveball come from the exact same place. On the Phillies broadcast they talked that Eickhoff against right handed batters was starting the curveball at eye level and dropping it into the zone for a strike and that the batter saw it as a high fastball. This shows the reasoning, the curveball is coming from the same place as the fastball and with the velocity difference the batter is frozen by the curveball. If the batter does gear up for the fastball, Eickhoff will start the pitch in the middle of the zone and drop it away for a swing and miss.
The changeup is probably the key to Eickhoff staying in the rotation without major platoon splits. The curveball is the key to his ceiling because it can be a real weapon against all batters.