Adbert Alzolay was brought through the Cubs system as a fastball/curveball pitcher, but that pitcher no longer exists. Alzolay now goes heavy with a sinker/slider combo, but he’s not just a heavy sinker and slider pitcher. He’s actually got six pitches to choose from now.
Against the Cardinals on Thursday night, Alzolay threw six different pitch types for the first time in his career: slider, sinker, cutter, four-seam, changeup, and curveball. Alzolay simply has it. He can adjust. He has adjusted quickly. He will continue to adjust.
That six-pitch outing proves his development has been significant under the watchful eyes of Craig Breslow and Tommy Hottovy. Alzolay’s most recent addition has been a new cutter he uses to combat left-handed batters. Over 95% of his cutters — now making up ~15% of his repertoire — have been thrown to left-handed batters.
Don’t forget that during his time at the alternate site last season, Alzolay worked to change the grip on his curveball, eventually learning a slider that immediately recorded more movement than over 80% of existing big-league pitchers (shown in figure below). All it took was one game for Alzolay to have one of the league’s nastiest sliders. Just one freaking game.
“What [Alzolay] does so well with his sliders, he creates topspin which creates that depth and you utilize that one-seam spin,” Hottovy told Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic. “When he throws his cutter, he actually backspins the ball with four-seam spin and generates more horizontal movement. It’s going to be harder and tighter with that horizontal movement.
“Not as much of the depth as the slider. It’s really only been two games that he’s used it. He’s been throwing it in the bullpens trying to work on it and get comfortable with it.”
First, Alzolay developed a slider. Then he swapped his four-seam for a sinker. Now he’s throwing cutters nearly once every five pitches. He has six pitches. He is 26 years old. Seriously, what’s next for the phenom?