Michael Fulmer has come a long, long way this year in the Savannah rotation. The 19-year old is fourth in the SAL in ERA (2.67), second in opponents’ batting average (.196) and third in WHIP (1.09). In his last six starts, since June 14, he owns a 1.21 ERA (5 ER/37.1 IP) with 31 strikeouts against 13 walks (2.4 K/BB ratio) and an opponents’ batting average of .141 (18 H/128).
Before Thursday’s start, I asked Savannah manager Luis Rojas how he would attack Fulmer if he had to hit off him.
“I’m going to go off his fastball. His secondary pitches have developed, but I would go off his fastball, make him bring the ball down in the zone, but he’s been more effective lately doing it. He’s been working with Frank on some mechanical stuff. He’s been doing it on a consistent basis for command.
That would be my plan: I’d stick to the fastball all the time and make him bring it down in the zone and lay off everything up because his fastball is sneaky and if you try to go up with him, it might go by you. It’s got that late hop where he can really throw it by you. You see it letter-high and then you swing, and the next thing you know, it wasn’t letter-high it was up to your neck. He’s deceptive that way. He’s getting lots of chases up in the zone. I’d make him go down and go from there. He’s got that power arm and those two good pitches. His slider is really a nasty pitch right now and he’s putting batters away. The changeup is a work in progress. He’s such a coachable pitcher that he’s developing really on the fast track right now. I really have to worship what he’s done, because he’s really absorbed the instructions.”
The life on his fastball and the improvement in his slider speak for themselves.
Of course, I couldn’t let an allusion to a mechanical change go by. So I followed up. Rojas on the changes in Fulmer’s mechanics since the beginning of 2012:
He’s closing a little bit more with his front hip. That gives him more rhythm and staying with more direction toward home plate and that’s whats making him repeat the same release point. Instead of elevating his pitches, he’s finishing out there and able to spot that pitch side to side….
Even last year in the Gulf Coast League, he used to go straight up with the leg. Now, he’s closing that front hip now that’s giving him the direction and the rhythm to throw more strikes on a consistent basis.
This about it this way. Before he had a tendency to fly open too early, leading to a late arm and an inconsistent release point which in turn produced fastballs up, and breaking balls that didn’t break. Now, by showing the hitter just a little of his rear end, he forces his body to wait for his arm and can drive towards the plate as a cohesive unit. Also, by improving his direction home – being online better – he can now work to both sides of the plate more effectively.