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For Los Angeles Angels Shoemaker,”It’s all about that splitter”

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May 11, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker (52) in the first inning of the game St. Louis Cardinals at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
May 11, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker (52) in the first inning of the game St. Louis Cardinals at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /
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Los Angeles Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker has figured out how to make his splitter an effective pitch again, leading to a string of dominant starts.

Los Angeles Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker is one of the most curious pitchers in all of baseball.

Both myself and fellow staff writer Grant Avise agree with this fact. On days, Matt Shoemaker looks like he shouldn’t even be on the same field as Double-A guys, giving up run after run and getting chased in early innings.

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On other days, he pitches like an absolute ace, like a Clayton Kershaw or Jake Arrieta.

It wasn’t long ago that I wrote the right-hander may lose his spot in the rotation because of his string of treacherous performances, then he got as hot as a summer in Phoenix.

Shoemaker has a 1.88 ERA with 48 strikeouts in his last five starts. And he’s pitched deep into ball games, compiling 38 1/3 innings in those starts.

But his newfound success hasn’t been an accident. Not at all.

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The 29-year-old is using his splitter at a much higher rate than he did at the start of the season and the result has been a lot of confused hitters at the plate, according to Brooks Baseball.

Since his May 16 start against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Shoemaker has used his splitter for at least 42 percent of his pitches in five of his six starts.

In comparison, Shoemaker hadn’t used his splitter in more than 26 percent of his pitches in any start this season. He only used it for 10 percent of his pitches on May 11 against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The splitter has been an absolute key to keeping batters guessing and his ERA shows that.

In April, Shoemaker had a 9.15 ERA, going 1-4 and pitching 3.0 innings or fewer in three of his five starts.

In May, he found the splitter and his ERA for the month was 3.28 and he went 2-1. His final two starts of the month were also the first two of a string of dominant starts.

On May 21 and 27, Shoemaker threw a combined 15 2/3 innings allowing just two earned runs while striking out 23 and walking none.

He was unfortunate in getting a no-decision in the May 21 start against the Baltimore Orioles when he went 7 1/3 innings allowing no runs on three hits with 12 strikeouts.

In that start against the Orioles, he used his splitter for 46 percent of his pitches. In his next start, he used it 48 percent of the time.

Then came June where Shoemaker has continued his lights-out run.

In three starts this month, he has a 2.38 ERA but has a bad-luck 0-2 record and a no-decision because Huston Street blew a 3-run 9th-inning lead against the Cleveland Indians.

In the three June starts, Shoemaker has thrown 22 2/3 innings, striking out 25 while walking just one and allowing only six earned runs.

Shoemaker also demonstrated a dominant display of control when he struck out 49 batters before issuing a walk, the third-longest streak since 1974. 

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He certainly looks like a rotation anchor again, but it’s going to be interesting to see how the Angels play with the order since they announced Tim Lincecum will make his Halos debut this weekend.

Hector Santiago isn’t pitching as well as he needs to be, nor is Jered Weaver. Jhoulys Chacin will probably stay in the rotation for now which would mean Lincecum would likely take the spot being held by David Huff.

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Shoemaker, strangely enough, is the only good thing working for the Angels rotation right now.

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As long as he relies on his splitter, or so it seems, things will likely stay that way.

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