It is no secret that the Brewers pitching staff is stacked with elite arms.
Corbin Burnes is the reigning Cy Young award winner and Brandon Woodruff was finished fifth. Freddy Peralta, Adrian Houser, and Eric Lauer round out a typical five man starting rotation, but similar to last year the Brewers will be deploying a six man rotation for at least the month of May. This makes Aaron Ashby the team’s sixth starter.
Similar to last season, to begin 2022 Ashby has worked both as a starter and long reliever. The hard throwing lefty has the “stuff” capable to succeed in either role. This year, he is off to a good start to the season for in 19.1 innings pitched he has a 2.33 ERA.
Here are three observations on Aaron Ashby’s start to the 2022 Brewers season.
1) Ashby’s pitch repertoire is evolving
When watching Ashby pitch, one thing that stands out is the movement on his pitches, especially his slider. Ashby’s slider averages 44.4 inches of vertical drop along with 10.2 inches of horizontal movement. In 2021 he threw this pitch the most at 38.5% with his sinker second at 34%. To begin 2022, these pitches have switched places.
Ashby’s 2022 pitch repertoire primarily consists of a sinker (37%), slider (34.5%), changeup (17.9%), and curveball (7.3%). Aside from the sinker taking over as his primary pitch, he is throwing a lot more curveballs this year. His curveball averages 60 inches of vertical drop and is his slowest pitch.
2) The walk rate is very high to begin the season
With having pitches that possess a lot of movement, the ability to throw consistent strikes becomes more difficult. Add this into the fact that Ashby’s pitch repertoire is changing and it is not hard to understand why Ashby’s walk rate is elevated to begin 2022. Currently, he is walking 15% of the batters he faces.
Ashby is not the first Brewers pitcher to have electric stuff but struggle with command. Walks were a big knock on Freddy Peralta’s game earlier in his career as well. In theory, Ashby’s sinker should be the “easiest” to command, so he should be looking to rely upon this pitch as his go to when needing a strike or in order to work ahead in counts.
3) He is one of the best at generating ground balls
Over the past few seasons, Brewers pitcher Adrian Houser has been regarded as one of the best at generating ground balls. However, Ashby may be overtaking him in this category. Ashby currently has a ground ball rate of 67% in 2022 and 64% throughout his young career. In 2022, Houser’s ground ball rate is at 45%, but over the past few seasons he is typically in the 55-60% range.
A big reason for Ashby’s high ground ball rate is because he prefers to work low in the strike zone. His off speed pitches also have a ton of movement, which makes it difficult for batters to get underneath and elevate.
As the season continues, Ashby will likely continue to work both as a starter and out of the bullpen.
Regardless of his role, he is an exciting player to watch who is still continuing to improve at the major league level. He should be a key part of the Brewers pitching staff for many years to come.