Baltimore Orioles: A Closer Look at Pitcher Alex Cobb

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JUNE 20: Alex Cobb /

The Baltimore Orioles recently signed former Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb to a four-year contract. Here, we take a closer look at Cobb’s repertoire.

The Baltimore Orioles recently signed former Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb to a four-year contract. Here, we’re going to take a closer look at Cobb and what he’s going to be bringing to the Baltimore Orioles.

First, let’s take a look at how Cobb did last year. In his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, Cobb had a fairly successful year, pitching to a 3.66 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and a 6.42 K/9. That K/9 is a bit low for him, but overall the numbers are solid.

However, his peripherals look a bit more concerning, with a 4.16 FIP, 4.45 bbFIP, and a 4.48 SIERA. Cobb also gave up a career-high hard-hit rate of 36.9%. All of these point to some potential regression for the 30-year-old unless he’s able to make some changes.

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However, there is (potentially) good news: There’s reason to believe that Cobb can improve because the reason his peripherals are what they is a noticeable mechanical issue, and it’s something Cobb is not only aware of, but is able to work on and potentially fix (we’ll discuss what it is in just a second).

Now, we’ll take a closer look at the repertoire Cobb will be bringing to the Baltimore Orioles (GIFs courtesy of our friends at Pitcherlist):

Pitch 1: Fastball

More than anything else, Cobb throws his sinking fastball, which averages around 91-92 MPH. The pitch has fairly average horizontal movement but a few inches more vertical movement on it than your typical sinker.

The pitch was fairly successful last year, with opposing hitters having a .320 wOBA against it, however when they did hit it, they hit it hard, with a .174 ISO against it. The pitch also didn’t generate as many groundballs as it used to, with a groundball rate of 40.9%, down from 46.8% in 2014 (the last full year he was a starter before his surgery).

Pitch 2: Curveball

Cobb’s got a pretty nice curveball that’s all about the vertical movement. The pitch doesn’t have a ton of horizontal movement on it, but it’s got almost three inches more vertical drop on it than your average curveball.

Last year saw a nice resurgence for Cobb’s curveball, posting its highest pVAL of his career at 6.9. While it didn’t miss a ton of bats (it had a fairly modest whiff rate of 8.9%), hitters couldn’t make any kind of decent contact against it. Last year, opposing hitters had just a .248 wOBA and a .084 ISO against the pitch.

Pitch 3: Split-changeup

This pitch is, in my opinion, the key to Cobb’s success. This is one incredible pitch when it’s working right, but last year, Cobb lost the touch on his split-change that he’s had in the past. The pitch still missed bats last year though, generating an 11.5% whiff rate and a 40.8% chase rate, but compared to the pitch’s 18.8% whiff rate and 53.1% chase rate in 2014, it’s not nearly as good.

Not only that, but hitters were able to make decent contact with the pitch last year, hitting .310 against the pitch with a .195 ISO (both the worst of his repertoire). So what happened to the pitch?

Well the pitch itself hasn’t changed too much (though it’s gained some horizontal movement), with one notable exception – its vertical release point:

Cobb’s vertical release point on his split-change was higher last year than its ever been, and more importantly, higher than any of his other pitches. Likely what this means is that hitters are able to see the pitch better, so they’re not chasing it as much or whiffing at it as much.

Because of that, Cobb started using the pitch less and less:

This is easily Cobb’s most dominant pitch. It’s the pitch that helped him have ERAs below 3.00 for two straight seasons before his surgery. You can see just how dominant of a pitch it used to be pre-surgery:

This pitch is, in my opinion, the key to Cobb’s success for the Baltimore Orioles. If Cobb is able to fix his vertical release point and get this pitch back to being the dominant pitch it used to be, that regression that we’re expecting might not be as major as it could be.

However, I’m personally not super-confident in the Baltimore Orioles’ ability to fix mechanical problems, they’ve had plenty of pitchers with mechanical issues in the past (and lest we forget that the key to Jake Arrieta‘s success with the Chicago Cubs was not doing the mechanical adjustments the Orioles wanted him to do).

However, if Cobb can figure this out on his own, or if the Baltimore Orioles’ pitching staff works with him on it, he could easily become one of the best pitchers in this rotation, if not the best pitcher in the rotation.