Behind the Box Score: First pitch home runs on Josh Tomlin

The first-pitch fastball has come back to haunt Josh Tomlin as three of the four home runs he's allowed this season have come as a result of aggressive approaches at the plate.

CLEVELAND – Josh Tomlin is not going to fool many hitters with a four-pitch mix headlined by an average sinker/four-seam fastball velocity of 87.2-mph (career: 88.5-mph).

Instead, Tomlin’s ability to locate on the outer edge of each side of the plate is what keeps hitters guessing.

What is the best approach to a pitcher attempting to paint the corners rather than overpower his competition?

Swing at the first pitch in the strike zone.

Although Tomlin pitched a dandy on Friday – 8 IP, 6 H, 1 R/ER, 1 BB, 7 K – he allowed his fourth home run of the season, the third of which came on the first pitch.

Make no mistake about it, the 32-year-old right-hander has found his groove over his two outings with two runs allowed over 15 frames of work, but he may want to be more selective with his offerings in the early stages of at-bats...

Result: Tim Anderson home run on a first pitch, 86.9-mph sinker (372 feet at 102.9-mph)

Result: Matt Davidson home run on a first pitch, 88.1-mph sinker (401 feet at 109.1-mph)

Result: Nelson Cruz home run on an 0-1, 76.2-mph curveball (388 feet at 96.7-mph)

Result: Miguel Sano home run on a first pitch, 90.2-mph sinker (381 feet at 107.6-mph)

Sano’s blast proved to be the difference in a low-scoring affair where Ervin Santana happened to match Tomlin inning-for-inning.

In looking at Tomlin’s 2017 splits entering play, opposing hitters where slashing .375/.375/.813 with one double, two home runs and six RBIs on batted balls put in play on the first pitch. Over the course of his career, batters have recorded averages of .319/.319/.613 with 26 doubles, three triples and 25 home runs in a 118-game sample size when making contact with the first pitch.

Without an overpowering arsenal, Tomlin has the tendency to fall victim to aggressive approaches, especially when it comes to the first and second pitches of an at-bat. The scouting report on Tomlin likely includes a recommendation to attack early and often because he gets stronger when he stays ahead of hitters and works deep into a lingering at-bat…

Opposing hitters on an 0-2 count vs. Tomlin in his career: .165/.170/.268

1-2 count: .186/.191/.288

2-2 count: .185/.184/.301

3-2 count: .274/.397/.544

Considering Tomlin surrendered nine of his 36 home runs on the first pitch in 2016 – a first-pitch total that ranked second in all of baseball – there needs to be more of an emphasis on working the corners early in the count if he wants to get away with sub-90-mph velocities on a consistent basis.

John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.


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