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Sam Deduno and his "crazy" fastball

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Sam Deduno has a curveball that would be easily classified as “filthy” by baseball jargon standards but his fastball is “crazy” – at least by his own admission.

According to a story from Rochester, the Red Wings pitchers were introducing themselves and speaking about their best pitches. When it was his turn, the 28-year-old right-hander from the Dominican introduced himself by saying “Sam Deduno and I have a crazy fastball.”

Not crazy in the sense of a Aroldis Chapman 100 mile per hour fastball which is by you before you even get your feet set in the batter’s box, mind you. More like Nuke LaLoosh-fastball-off-the-mascot crazy.

TexasLeaguers.com’s strike zone graph of Deduno’s fastball shows how this pitch is more like a shotgun blast than a precision sniper rifle:

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His breaking stuff is without doubt his best pitch and he leans heavily on it. Overall, opponents are hitting just .176 off of his curve and nearly 40% of his match-ups have ended in a strike out when throwing his curve for the last pitch of the at bat.

With a sharp, quick bend, Deduno has gotten plenty of out-of-zone chases and missed a good amount of bats – just ask the Indians’ Johnny Damon how good that curve is after he struck out on one that hit the dirt almost five feet shy of the plate.

Despite the impressive rate, over time opponents will likely stop chasing after the curve if he is unable to locate his fastball consistently. So far, Deduno has walked 16 batters in his 23 innings, which is a lot of baserunners and a lot of extra pitches. He has averted dangers by keeping those baserunners from scoring by stranding 85% of them - a rate that is well above average and is ripe for regression.

When asked about the possibility of being “effectively wild” has helped the pitcher limit the Indians to one run on just two hits Saturday night, Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson joked “Ask Mauer, he says it’s like catching R.A. Dickey.”

Sure, just like Dickey – give or take nearly 20 miles an hour of velocity between his knuckleball and Deduno’s fastball at 93.

Because of the movement, Pitch F/X data suggests that he has two fastballs – a four-seamer and a cutter –but catcher Joe Mauer said that isn’t the case. It’s the same fastball claims the Twins backstop, who described the pitch as “unpredictable.”

So how did Deduno’s battery mate attempt to corral the erratic heat?

“With him I kind of just sit in the middle and tell him to aim down. Some will cut, some will sink. If it’s tough to catch, it’s probably hard to hit.”

The Twins say they have seen improvements in the command of his fastball over the course of his four starts. Heading into his start against Cleveland, Deduno’s “four-seam fastball” (as categorized by Pitch F/X) was located in the strike zone less than 50% of the time. Following the seven inning performance, that rate is now above that mark at 50.3% indicating that he is making some progress. Again, while Mauer says there is no difference in his fastball types, Pitch F/X categorizes the one that cuts as a “cutter”. This version of his fastball was only thrown in the zone 39.3% of the time, a rate well below average and a sign that he still has work to do.

The incremental improvement in his fastball comes as a result of added work with Anderson.

Between starts, Deduno throws not one but two bullpen sessions. One of which, says Anderson, is to focus strictly on the fastball. In addition to getting a feel for the command of the pitch, Anderson also tries to keep in on his line and smooth out some of his mechanics.

Although he may have some work to do harnessing his “cutter” version of his fastball, the progress - if measured in his seven inning, two-hit outing against Cleveland - has been encouraging so far.
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