Despite posting a season ERA of 2.85 with Indianapolis, Casey Sadler has seen his share of struggles since returning from Pittsburgh in mid-June. In his past six starts, he has allowed at least seven hits in all of them. In addition, in the 36.1 innings over this stretch, he has allowed 18 runs. Prior to this, he allowed 18 runs in the 61.2 innings leading up to the promotion.
With this struggle in mind, Sadler has two reasons for the slide. The first is falling behind in the count. Since returning in mid-June, Sadler has chalked up 12 of his 21 season walks.
“The last couple games have not been great,” Sadler said. “I just have to get back to not waiting until 1-0 and 2-0 to attack hitters. I have maybe been nibbling a little too much in the last couple outings.”
As for what has been working lately, Sadler said that it is his typical arsenal of throwing a lot of sinking fastballs. However, one pitch has been minimized as of late.
“I don’t know if there is a reason for it, but I have kind of been getting away from [the changeup] in the last few outings,” Sadler said. “I think that it has shown because every time that I throw it, I have a lot of confidence in it. It helps me get deep into games. I don’t know if it’s stubbornness or what, but I have to start bringing that out a little more.”
Sadler said that after his last home start, Pirates Pitching Coordinator Scott Mitchell inquired about the use of the pitch. The changeup is a pitch that Sadler began working on heavily in the spring and aided a fast start with Indianapolis.
“[Mitchell] asked if there was a reason that I have gone away from it,” Sadler said. “I just haven’t really thrown it. It’s not that I don’t trust it or it’s not good, I just haven’t thrown it.”
With this in mind, Sadler is looking to mix the pitch back in the repertoire in the second half of the season.
“I will absolutely [get back to using the changeup],” Sadler said. “I feel like that is a pitch that I need. It is something to get them off the fastball and give them a different speed of the same look. That is something that I have to get back to incorporating.”
As for his two primary pitches, the fastball and curveball, it is business as usual for Sadler.
“[The sinker and the curveball] are good,” Sadler said. “It’s there and something that I have always had. I think, as pitchers, we go through lapses where it is better at times than others, but it is just something that you have to battle through and keep using.”
Breaking down a start
After getting to see Sadler’s start on July 13, many of these aspects held true, as he struggled through six innings and failed to strike out a single batter.
Sadler walked three hitters and allowed seven hits in these six innings. In the start, he labored to throw 113 pitches, while only 65 were strikes. In addition, Sadler fell behind 10 of the 28 hitters that he faced on the first pitch of the at bat. Three of those hitters, he threw at least two balls before crossing the plate with a strike.
For the season, when he is behind in the count, Triple-A hitters are batting .299 against Sadler. This is compared to the .218 that they are batting against him when he is ahead in the count.
The type of pitches that Sadler threw also lined up. Nearly half of the pitches that he threw were fastballs, which were between 90-92 MPH. This is compared to the around 25 changeups that Sadler threw, which sat between 83-85.
These control issues, along with the pitch selections, play heavily into Sadler’s struggles on this day. While he only allowed a pair of runs and it went down as a quality start, the struggles that Sadler discusses were prevalent.
Accolades and the future
After the success in the first half of the season, Sadler got an opportunity to throw an inning in the Triple-A All-Star Game in mid-July. In the inning of work, Sadler was able to get four outs after a hitter reached on a dropped third strike. While he did allow a single, he got out of the frame unharmed.
In four relief appearances over 8.2 innings with Pittsburgh, Sadler allowed eight hits and six earned runs while working out of the Pirate bullpen. In those outings, the same control issues that Sadler has shown since coming back were there, as he walked four hitters and hit another.
While there were struggles present, the sample size was small and four of the six runs were allowed in one appearance against Chicago. A couple of these runs were ruled questionably earned as Gregory Polanco could have received an error on a play that was ruled a hit.
Getting some taste in Pittsburgh has Sadler excited to aid the squad down the stretch in a playoff run in September.
“Anytime that you get up there and have a chance to play with those guys, it is a great experience,” Sadler said. “Hopefully, I get a chance to go back up sometime this year. I know that they are right in the playoff race. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple months and hopefully get back to the playoffs.”
Ryan has been following Indianapolis baseball for most of his life, and the Pirates since they became the affiliate in 2005. He began writing for Pirates Prospects in 2013, in a stint that ran through 2016 (with no service time manipulation played in). Ryan rejoined the team in 2022, covering Indianapolis once again. He has covered the Pirates in four different big league stadiums. Ryan was also fortunate enough to cover the 2015 Futures Game in Cincinnati.
Changing speeds is what NO1’s’ do better than anyone, that is why they are NO 1’s. that and throwing the ball where they want to. If Sadler abandons his changeup, he will go nowhere, a good lesson for him to learn at Indy rather than in the majors.