Josh Schmidt: Consistency of Control

Not many pitchers dominate a league quite like Josh Schmidt handcuffed the NY-Penn League in 2005 while closing for the Staten Island Yankees. In 2006 however, after skipping one level of minor league baseball, Schmidt hasn't had the same degree of success in Tampa. Consistency of his control, and a mere three or four inches at times, has been the biggest difference in the results.

"It's had it's ups and downs," Josh Schmidt said of his 2006 season. "You know, I obviously haven't pitched as well as I wanted to personally. I struggled early on, then I thought I hit my stride when we came back from [the All-Star] break, but then I struggled again, had a couple of bad outings early, but the team has improved the whole season."

"We got over .500 and now we're fighting for first place, so we feel pretty good as a team. But personally, I feel like I've struggled the whole year."

After limiting New York Penn League batters to a paltry .128 batting average last season, and posting nearly a six-to-one strikeout to walk ratio with the Staten Island Yankees, Schmidt hasn't displayed the same type of control with the Tampa Yankees after skipping the South Atlantic League entirely.

"I've struggled with consistency of control," Schmidt listed as the biggest difference between this season and last. "I've walked a lot more batters this year than I really ever have, in less innings. Obviously, you give up runs when you start walking guys. Just little things happen, the defense gets on their heels, and I've had trouble getting momentum. Just struggling early, it was tough to straighten it out."

He walked nine batters - one more than his entire season total in 2005 - in his first eight appearances with the Tampa Yankees this year.

"I came back and my mechanics weren't in shape," said the right-handed hurler. "They weren't really where they needed to be when I was in Spring Training. I thought they were better than they were. I came back without having done anything and they weren't there. I just struggled with command from that. I worked on it early in the year and got them where they needed to be, that's when I started to pitch well."

"Other than that, I was just focused on keeping the ball down, but I missed down a lot," Schmidt continued. "I ended up walking guys when I should have been just going after guys. Even if I had given up a hit, I should have been attacking them instead of walking them. I was focused on pitching down too much versus going after guys, because we're in a big ballpark. It just didn't work right."

P.J. Pilittere, Schmidt's catcher in Staten Island last season and his catcher again in Tampa this season, agrees with that assessment.

"The main difference for me is him throwing behind hitters," Pilittere said of Schmidt getting behind in the count. "Last year, you knew what you were getting, first pitch strikes, and with that first pitch strike you're getting that slider sooner or later and see 'ya. But [this year] he's just been falling behind."

Schmidt admits that his rather high walk totals this season are a product of trying to be too perfect with his location and he doesn't believe skipping a minor league level and facing better hitters in the Florida State League has anything to do with his struggles.

"I don't think of it that way, but that might be in the back of my head somewhere," Schmidt pondered as to why he's not attacking hitters in the Florida State League. "All I know is, I tend to get too fine. I know I can't throw 95 MPH right by guys, and then think here you go, here you go, and then it's going to get hit, and hit hard."

"So I tend to throw at the corners, just trying to spot up too much. And if you miss by three inches outside, it's not going to be a strike. I tend to do that too much and get behind guys and that's when I give up the hits. I wish I could throw 95 MPH, but not everybody's blessed with that. I just need to go after guys more and focus less on spotting up too much."

Perhaps over-analyzing his season a tad much and arguably a little more down on his results than he should be, the Yankees are happy with the way he has been throwing the ball this year.

"He's done a great job for us", said Coach Pavlik, Tampa's pitching coach. "He's had, like all of them [the Tampa pitchers], a couple of games that have inflated his ERA a bit. I think if you go through game by game, he's had a hell of a lot more good games than bad games."

"When you only throw inning, and it might have been a case where he gave up three or four runs, that inflates it pretty quick," Pavlik continued. "He's done a great job for us. We're just trying to get him to throw more strikes and attack hitters earlier in the count."

While the general mantra of Schmidt, Pilittere, and the Yankees is to get him to throw more strikes and attack batters, everybody is still very high on his stuff, especially the reincarnation of his changeup.

"You know, I am," Schmidt said of being happy with his stuff overall. "My fastball's diving, the slider is breaking like it always breaks, and especially over the last couple of weeks, I feel like I've had the best changeup I've ever had. I really got away from it for a long time just because the slider got a lot of people out."

"The slider combination with the sinker worked really well. And now I've got the changeup back to work with the lefties, so I feel my stuff is the best it has been over the last couple of years. I don't know, I just have put it all together completely."

Coach Pavlik and P.J. Pilittere couldn't agree more.

"He sinks the ball well, he's got the slider and stuff, uses the changeup to left-handers, but he's done a great job for us," said Pavlik.

"He's got a great two-seamer that has a lot of sink that's different," said Pilittere. "He's got a different delivery with a lot of deception on it. I think it's moving too much for his own good right now. It's not staying in the zone long enough."

"But he knows what he's capable of. I know he's been down himself because it's been a totally different year for him than it was last year, but I try to keep him up and tell him he's capable of that and he can do it. Lately he's been back to form."

With just 14 walks in his last 22 appearances, albeit not as tremendous as 2005 but a lot better than the start of his season this year, Schmidt is starting to resemble the dominant pitcher everybody saw in Staten Island.

"When he's going good, he's coming in fastball for strike one, slider - he's got all of his pitches going down for strikes - that's him," said Pilittere.

Nobody can find anything wrong in his delivery or his stuff, and despite the varying results in his first two professional seasons, everybody essentially sees the same pitcher on the mound.

"I don't think there is," Schmidt said of pointing to one thing that could improve his consistency. "I think I just need to stay focused on attacking the hitters. I tend to get too far in, because I don't throw hard."

The clear plan of attack the rest of the way is to get Josh Schmidt to trust in his stuff and attack batters the same way he did a year ago.

"His stuff is still electric as it was [last year]," said Pilittere. "That slider is still, in my mind, well, I'm glad I don't have to face it. But I think that's just it with him, he's just falling behind."

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\n\"It's had it's ups and downs,\" Josh Schmidt said of his 2006 season. \"You know, I obviously haven't pitched as well as I wanted to personally. I struggled early on, then I thought I hit my stride when we came back from [the All-Star] break, but then I struggled again, had a couple of bad outings early, but the team has improved the whole season.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"We got over .500 and now we're fighting for first place, so we feel pretty good as a team. But personally, I feel like I've struggled the whole year.\"
\r\n
\r\nAfter limiting New York Penn League batters to a paltry .128 batting average last season, and posting nearly a six-to-one strikeout to walk ratio with the Staten Island Yankees, Schmidt hasn't displayed the same type of control with the Tampa Yankees after skipping the South Atlantic League entirely.
\r\n
\r\n\"I've struggled with consistency of control,\" Schmidt listed as the biggest difference between this season and last. \"I've walked a lot more batters this year than I really ever have, in less innings. Obviously, you give up runs when you start walking guys. Just little things happen, the defense gets on their heels, and I've had trouble getting momentum. Just struggling early, it was tough to straighten it out.\"
\r\n
\r\nHe walked nine batters - one more than his entire season total in 2005 - in his first eight appearances with the Tampa Yankees this year.
\r\n
\r\n\"I came back and my mechanics weren't in shape,\" said the right-handed hurler. \"They weren't really where they needed to be when I was in Spring Training. I thought they were better than they were. I came back without having done anything and they weren't there. I just struggled with command from that. I worked on it early in the year and got them where they needed to be, that's when I started to pitch well.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Other than that, I was just focused on keeping the ball down, but I missed down a lot,\" Schmidt continued. \"I ended up walking guys when I should have been just going after guys. Even if I had given up a hit, I should have been attacking them instead of walking them. I was focused on pitching down too much versus going after guys, because we're in a big ballpark. It just didn't work right.\"
\r\n
\r\nP.J. Pilittere, Schmidt's catcher in Staten Island last season and his catcher again in Tampa this season, agrees with that assessment.
\r\n
\r\n\"The main difference for me is him throwing behind hitters,\" Pilittere said of Schmidt getting behind in the count. \"Last year, you knew what you were getting, first pitch strikes, and with that first pitch strike you're getting that slider sooner or later and see 'ya. But [this year] he's just been falling behind.\"
\r\n
\r\nSchmidt admits that his rather high walk totals this season are a product of trying to be too perfect with his location and he doesn't believe skipping a minor league level and facing better hitters in the Florida State League has anything to do with his struggles.
\r\n
\r\n\"I don't think of it that way, but that might be in the back of my head somewhere,\" Schmidt pondered as to why he's not attacking hitters in the Florida State League. \"All I know is, I tend to get too fine. I know I can't throw 95 MPH right by guys, and then think here you go, here you go, and then it's going to get hit, and hit hard.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"So I tend to throw at the corners, just trying to spot up too much. And if you miss by three inches outside, it's not going to be a strike. I tend to do that too much and get behind guys and that's when I give up the hits. I wish I could throw 95 MPH, but not everybody's blessed with that. I just need to go after guys more and focus less on spotting up too much.\"
\r\n
\r\nPerhaps over-analyzing his season a tad much and arguably a little more down on his results than he should be, the Yankees are happy with the way he has been throwing the ball this year.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's done a great job for us\", said Coach Pavlik, Tampa's pitching coach. \"He's had, like all of them [the Tampa pitchers], a couple of games that have inflated his ERA a bit. I think if you go through game by game, he's had a hell of a lot more good games than bad games.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"When you only throw inning, and it might have been a case where he gave up three or four runs, that inflates it pretty quick,\" Pavlik continued. \"He's done a great job for us. We're just trying to get him to throw more strikes and attack hitters earlier in the count.\"
\r\n
\r\nWhile the general mantra of Schmidt, Pilittere, and the Yankees is to get him to throw more strikes and attack batters, everybody is still very high on his stuff, especially the reincarnation of his changeup.
\r\n
\r\n\"You know, I am,\" Schmidt said of being happy with his stuff overall. \"My fastball's diving, the slider is breaking like it always breaks, and especially over the last couple of weeks, I feel like I've had the best changeup I've ever had. I really got away from it for a long time just because the slider got a lot of people out.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"The slider combination with the sinker worked really well. And now I've got the changeup back to work with the lefties, so I feel my stuff is the best it has been over the last couple of years. I don't know, I just have put it all together completely.\"
\r\n
\r\nCoach Pavlik and P.J. Pilittere couldn't agree more.
\r\n
\r\n\"He sinks the ball well, he's got the slider and stuff, uses the changeup to left-handers, but he's done a great job for us,\" said Pavlik.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's got a great two-seamer that has a lot of sink that's different,\" said Pilittere. \"He's got a different delivery with a lot of deception on it. I think it's moving too much for his own good right now. It's not staying in the zone long enough.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"But he knows what he's capable of. I know he's been down himself because it's been a totally different year for him than it was last year, but I try to keep him up and tell him he's capable of that and he can do it. Lately he's been back to form.\"
\r\n
\r\nWith just 14 walks in his last 22 appearances, albeit not as tremendous as 2005 but a lot better than the start of his season this year, Schmidt is starting to resemble the dominant pitcher everybody saw in Staten Island.
\r\n
\r\n\"When he's going good, he's coming in fastball for strike one, slider - he's got all of his pitches going down for strikes - that's him,\" said Pilittere.
\r\n
\r\nNobody can find anything wrong in his delivery or his stuff, and despite the varying results in his first two professional seasons, everybody essentially sees the same pitcher on the mound.
\r\n
\r\n\"I don't think there is,\" Schmidt said of pointing to one thing that could improve his consistency. \"I think I just need to stay focused on attacking the hitters. I tend to get too far in, because I don't throw hard.\"
\r\n
\r\nThe clear plan of attack the rest of the way is to get Josh Schmidt to trust in his stuff and attack batters the same way he did a year ago.
\r\n
\r\n\"His stuff is still electric as it was [last year],\" said Pilittere. \"That slider is still, in my mind, well, I'm glad I don't have to face it. But I think that's just it with him, he's just falling behind.\"
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