In his start against the Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers starter Rich Hill threw eighty-nine pitches. Thirty-eight were fastballs, and the remaining fifty-one were curveballs. The 36-year-old lefty was flawless through seven innings and was poised to complete a perfect game.
The last time Rich Hill relied on only two pitches – his fastball and his curve – was on May 13, 2016, before he had even arrived with the Dodgers. He was still with the Oakland A’s and facing the Tampa Bay Rays. He threw 112 pitches over six innings.
In that game, Hill gave up four hits, struck out seven batters, and walked four. His performance gave the A’s an opportunity to win. However, according to his strikezone plot (via Brooks Baseball), it appeared that Hill attempted to expand the zone.
Though it is not unusual for a pitcher to expand the strikezone, his leftmost and rightmost pitch had a range of almost six feet!
The next time Rich Hill was in Florida he was no longer with the A’s. Pitching as a Los Angeles Dodger, he faced the Miami Marlins. Much like his last outing in The Sunshine State, Hill relied solely on his fastball and curve.
The opening paragraph of this article severely understates the ease with which Hill was pitching. At 89 pitches over seven innings – an average of 13 pitches per inning – Hill was on pace to finish the game at 115 pitches. The strikezone plot for his September 10th start indicates a more controlled delivery from the mound.
Removing the two pitches furthest from the strikezone, the range of his leftmost and rightmost pitch are almost 3.5 feet. Hill peppered his fastball and curve with tighter control. In fact, looking only at his fastball, there is more vertical movement through the strike zone. But even if we consider the two pitches furthest from the strikezone, within the context of those at-bats, the location of those two curveballs appear intentional.
In the fourth inning, with Xavier Scurggs at the plate, Hill threw a curve outside only to come back in the middle of the strikezone with another curveball. The result was a lineout. Again in the fourth inning, this time against Martin Prado, Hill threw a curveball that was 2.5 feet from the center of the zone, came back with another curve that was just off the plate, and finished Prado off with fastball down the middle. The result of Prado’s at-bat was a flyout.
Hill did not have a chance to finish the game, because he was pulled in the seventh inning.