Why Has Adrian Sampson Been Struggling Lately?

After starting the season like a house of fire, Adrian Sampson appears to have hit the wall in June and into July.

The velocity is still where he has been all season long, in the 91 to 93 range with the fastball, but location is where Sampson has really struggled over the past month. One National League scout who saw Sampson pitch recently echoed exactly this.

“[Sampson] got up way too much,” the scout said. “Everything is good [with his stuff], but nothing looked great. He just can’t stay up that way.”

Along with this, the scout also pointed out that Sampson’s slider stayed flat a bit too much at times.

”Some of the sliders were good and sharp,” he said. “Others just did not get the same movement.”

While the scout was not ready to write Sampson off just yet, he did see the right hander during his roughest stretch of the campaign.

After posting 3.22 and 3.11 ERAs in the first two months of the season respectively, Sampson has seen a spike to 4.86 in June and 9.95 in July.

While the walks and number of his have stayed pretty steady, Sampson has given up much more solid contact over the past couple of months. After allowing just two home runs in April and May combined, he has allowed five in his last seven starts. In addition, the batting average against him has jumped to over .290 in that span as well.

Sampson has been strong with the strikeout all season long, pitching to a much higher rate than he typically does. Those totals have not dropped off at all either during the struggles.

In addition, over the seven starts in June and July, Sampson has allowed most of his runs in single innings. His first two starts in June were actually strong to go along with the first two months. In this last five starts, he has allowed all 28 runs in nine innings. All of the other innings that he has worked over this span have been scoreless.

It appears like when Sampson gets into a rut in an inning, it continues to go downhill quickly. In addition, it makes it look like it could come down to confidence in those innings.

When Sampson is good during the stretch, he has still shown quality stuff and been good. However, when he gets into one of those tough innings, the wheels seem to fall off at times.

The trouble mainly started in a crooked June 12th outing, where he allowed 12 hits and eight runs in 1.2 innings of work. While Dean Treanor was away from the team, Sampson was just left in the game to be pummeled and has seen three of his next four starts of allowing at least four runs.

With the velocity not changing, it does not appear to be anything physical with Sampson, but rather something psychological. At one point, Sampson appeared to be on the brink of pushing his way into the Pirates rotation. He has the stuff to get back there, but he just needs to avoid the big innings and avoid getting to much of the plate in those innings. The All-Star break comes at a perfect time for him to regroup and get things right.

  • I’m not getting too excited about him. He may be a potential middle reliever if he gains consistency, but I see nothing more than, AT BEST, a #4 and probably a #5.

  • sounds mental like release point and follow through. He’ll be fine.

  • Not saying it’s going to ruin his career but does the catcher have any responsibility to motion to the dugout that he might need to be yanked a little earlier on the June 12th outing? Just curious. In the majors you might leave a guy in knowing it won’t shatter his confidence and you need innings to save the pen. I gotta think you would treat prospects differently no?