In 2012, Tyson Ross was struggling as an Athletics starter, posting a whopping 6.50 ERA and an unimpressive 5.65 strikeouts per 9 over 73.1 IP. After heading to San Diego in the following offseason, Ross found his groove in the bullpen, and transitioned into a solid starting pitcher in the second half of 2013. This year, Ross has put it all together, making his first all-star appearance, and posting a luscious 2.65 ERA. Where did this come from?
While looking deeper into Tyson Ross’ emergence a few numbers pop out. Through 142.2 IP in 2014, Ross is sporting an incredible 58.0 percent groundball rate. In fact, his 22.2 percent flyball rate is the second best of all qualified starting pitchers (Dallas Keuchel holds a ludicrous 19.3 percent) – a lower frequency than his swelling strikeout rate (24.4 percent). It’s no secret that keeping the ball on the ground and punching out batters is a recipe for success.
Tyson Ross effectively keeps the ball low by focusing on his highly effective slider, which sits at an immense 13.4 Runs Above Average, currently trailing only Yu Darvish (15.0) and Garrett Richards (13.6). Take a look at this prime example of the breaking pitch he throws over 40 percent of the time as he struck out Edwin Jackson during Thursday’s game:
Additionally, Ross’ fastball has turned from a negative outcome pitch (-1.5 Runs Above Average in 2013) to a major contributor (7.7 Runs Above average in 2014), despite reducing its velocity from 94.0 MPH to 93.0 MPH. Tyson is pulling back to speed to get more movement and better location on his pitches, and has decreased his walk rate (8.7 percent to 8.0 percent) and raised his swinging strike rate (11.1 percent to 12.7 percent) in the process.
In might have seemed wise for Oakland to deal Tyson Ross after the 2012 season, as he looked to be a prospect that would never live up to his potential. In 2014, he’s not only turned into profit for the Padres, but he’s also turned into a pitcher.
Nick Pollack writes for Pitcher GIFs and can found making an excessive amount of GIFs on Twitter @PitcherGIFs.