Thomas Oldham: The Real Deal
"What a 'K'!"
Confused? Well, that is what plays at Fox Cities Stadium after each strikeout recorded by a Wisconsin Timber Rattlers pitcher. Thus far this season it has been like an audio track playing on repeat, at least when Thomas Oldham has pitched.
Ok, not really, but in 86 innings pitched this season he has fanned 102 batters, good enough for second in the Midwest League and a big reason why his five wins are second on the team.
"I'm really just trying to force contact," the 22 year-old left-hander said recently. "I'm just trying to attack the zone with all my pitches."
Rattlers' pitching coach Brad Holman has a little different perspective on what has allowed Oldham to pitch so well this season.
"One thing you can't teach is instinct," Holman said. "He can almost sense in a way what the hitter is trying to do off of him and as a result he combats that. More than anything, it's just an awareness that he takes with him between the lines."
So, you are not quite sold on whether or not Oldham is the real deal? Well, maybe you should talk with the Dayton Dragons, then. In Oldham's last start on June 28, he whiffed them 15 times. 15 times!
"I just tried to get ahead and throw first pitch strikes," he said of his performance. "It just seemed to work out where the strikeouts just happened. It wasn't anything I went into the game trying to do."
Of course, he had help from his teammates as well.
"Chris (Collins) did a great job of calling the game and the defense played great," he said. "It just worked out really well."
Oldham cannot strikeout everyone he faces, so what does he do when runners reach second and third?
"I never think about results or what's going on as far as situations," he said. "To me it doesn't really matter. I'm really just trying to focus on the next pitch and things usually happen from there."
It must be a pretty good approach, as Rattlers opponents are hitting a meager .205 against him when runners are in scoring position. This method of pitching has also helped him keep his earned run average to a team-low 3.03, remarkably better than where it was a month into the season.
"He's developed himself to where he's aware of what's going on around him," Holman said. "The first couple starts into the season you could ask him after the game about a particular hitter or a particular situation and he wouldn't remember. Wind down a little bit and pitch with an assertiveness and an awareness of what's going on around him. That's been his major stride forward."
A lot has gone right for Oldham this season and things are definitely pointing in the right direction, although he is definitely going to have trouble topping his recent 15 strikeout performance. No matter how hard it will be, he will attempt to do so Saturday against Cedar Rapids. Most pitchers would gladly accept such a dilemma.
Oh, and about that problem of "what a K!" playing on repeat at Fox Cities Stadium. Let us hope the staff there does not find a remedy. After all, it has become a fixture when Oldham is on the hill.
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