Saturday night in Anaheim, the Angels beat the Indians (LAA 4, CLE 3) thanks to yet another stellar outing from Matt Shoemaker. The right-hander struck out 11 and held Cleveland to three hits in eight scoreless innings.
This has very much been a tale of two seasons for Shoemaker. He has a 4.76 ERA and opponents are hitting .269/.302/.417 against him overall, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Check out his first six starts and his last six starts.
|First Six Starts|| 24 2/3 ||9.12||1.91||17/11||.336/.388/.579|
| Second Six Starts || 43 1/3 ||2.28||0.92||53/3||.226./240/.311|
That is two totally different pitchers. Shoemaker was the worst pitcher in baseball over his first six starts, but the last six time outs he's pitched like a true ace. A 53/3 K/BB? That's a damn fine Clayton Kershaw impression, Mr. Shoemaker.
#Angels RHP Matt Shoemaker walks Carlos Santana in T7, ends streak of 49 Ks since last walk, third-longest in baseball since 1974.— Mike DiGiovanna (@MikeDiGiovanna) June 12, 2016
Shoemaker has not come out of nowhere. It was only two years ago that he finished second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Jose Abreu. He went 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA (118 ERA+) that year before slipping to 7-10 with a 4.46 ERA (85 ERA+) last season.
The improvement Shoemaker has made this year, going from awful in his first six starts to great in his last six starts, is not necessarily a fluke. He's made a tangible change to his pitch selection. From Brooks Baseball:
Six starts ago Shoemaker started throwing his splitter nearly 50 percent of the time. 50 percent! Opponents were punishing his fastball so he basically stopped throwing it, and instead has been leaning on his best pitch, the split-finger.
I can't think of any other starting pitcher who has thrown their fastball as little and their best secondary pitch as much as Shoemaker has over the last six games. Is this approach built to last? We'll have to see. They say splitters are tough on the elbow, though there's no concrete evidence that is the case.
For now, Shoemaker has stepped up and taken over as the ace of the Angels, who are dealing with all sorts of pitching injuries. Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano, and C.J. Wilson are all on the shelf at the moment. For the Halos to get back into the postseason race, they'll need Shoemaker to continue pitching the way he has his last six starts.