Johan Oviedo cracked into the majors as a starting pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, eventually making the shift to the bullpen before the Pirates acquired him in the Jose Quintana trade.
The front office decided that they saw him better suited as a starter and has since had him in the rotation.
An injury to JT Brubaker allowed for Oviedo to take a spot in the rotation that wasn’t immediately available, and after a rough first outing, he has been spectacular this year for the Pirates.
The big righty has always had a great slider which has consistently put-up good swing and miss numbers. Despite pairing the slider with a fastball that can reach the upper 90s, he has struggled to find success.
A third pitch has not only helped the fastball, but also solidified Oviedo as a potential option in the rotation going forward.
During his last start of spring, Oviedo took a different approach on the mound, focusing on his slider as his primary pitch, following that up with fastball. During the season he took it another step further and has more than doubled his usage of his curveball and looking at the numbers it’s no wonder why.
In his start against the Cardinals, right at 70% pitches Oviedo threw were either a slider or curveball, with just 26% being the fastball.
With that approach, he pitched one of the best games of his career, allowing one run over seven innings while striking out 10 batters.
Not only did he use the curveball early in the count, eight batters he used it against as the first pitch, while tunneling it off the fastball.
The video above is a look at Oviedo throwing the fastball and curveball in sequence together, especially up in the zone. The first batter he faces of the game, Brenden Donovan, he throws the fastball up and away (granted a little too far away) but then breaks in a curve for a called strike three.
The rest of the video shows him alternating between the two pitches up and away, giving hitters a different look complete beside the slider.
Oviedo has gone from using the pitch 10.9% of the time in 2022, all the way up to 23.2% so far this year. While sometimes the metrics might not continue to play up with that much added usage, the pitch is doing even better in 2023.
Among all pitchers who have had at least 10 curveballs the last pitch of a plate appearance, Oviedo’s is ranked as the third best when it comes to Run Value per 100 pitches on Baseball Savant.
Overall, it’s the 24th best pitch in all of baseball when it comes to the same category. Hitters have an expected average of just .122 and an xwOBA of .120.
Going into the season, it wasn’t expected for Oviedo to make this kind of immediate impact, at least to the rotation. As we’ve seen before, injuries happen, and players need to step up to fill the missing playing time.
It’s only been a couple of games, but with a new approach on the mound, the righty has taken the opportunity given and ran with it. The Pirates still have a long season ahead of them and have had to tap into the bullpen quite a bit lately, so having someone they can rely on to go deep into the game is key.
Oviedo’s evolution to his game is showing he has the potential to be that guy.
Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.
So, does this qualify as a development story?
Could it be the Pirates did to the Cardinals what the Rays with Glasnow, and the Astros with Cole, did to the Pirates?
There may be hope for us yet!
When the Pirates first said they were gonna make Oviedo a starter again, I said ‘are they really gonna try and out smart the Cardinals?’
Early but looks like the Pirates may have actually done it
I could’ve said the same thing.
The Pirates were frustrated with Glasnow, and he was frustrated because he could not throw the pitches he needed to throw to succeed. How do you fix that? Just get MLB to change the strike zone.
In the NL, for all of Glasnow’s time with the Pirates, a strike was from the middle of the shins to the belt. Glasnow’s FB was always right below the letters, and he could not get a call. Therefore, they worked on the two seam and a changeup – he was not comfortable with either. After the trade Glasnow did better in the last 2 months of the season, but the real change came the next season. Over the Winter, MLB raised the strike zone from the knees to just below the letters. All of a sudden, what he was always comfortable throwing are the best pitches possible for the higher strike zone – high 90’s 4 seamer at the top of the zone, and a big-assed overhand curve!
So much of this is just untrue.
where in the world do you get this stuff
Have to wonder if some of this is the result of watching Rich Hill pitch and talking and working with him. If you are watching a 43-year old survive in the Majors throwing a large amount of curve balls, you have to start thinking, “well damn, I guess I should be throwing more breaking pitches”
This to a point, works. Statistically Rich Hill’s curve is one of the worst in baseball. Analytically Oviedo’s curve has always been good, he just never used it that much. feels they decided to have him work to his strengths, which is limiting the fastball usage as much as possible.
You can observe a lot by just watching. – Y. Berra
Johan Oviedo > Luis Oviedo
Luis AAA stats not so bad in 2023 so far
MLB > AAA
The Cuban Cannon
This is the second pitcher coming over to the Bucs and having success by altering the pitches thrown, or adjusting the percentages. I mentioned Dauri Moreta possibly a few weeks ago dropping about 32% off use of his FB – from the mid-50’s down to about 23% and raising his usage of his Slider by 34% over what it had been last year. He also borrowed a few % off of his CH usage to also add to the Slider usage.
This is smart baseball which has changed both of these kids for the better.
When you use analytics the right way, this is what happens. I love seeing it
Hopefully keeps cooking!
Keep it going, JO!