Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports Johan Oviedo’s first appearance for the St. Louis Cardinals this season was impressive. The right hander threw 4 2⁄3 scoreless innings while allowing a pair of hits and a pair of walks and striking out four. Additionally, he saved the rest of the bullpen by lasting nearly five innings since the starter, Daniel Ponce de Leon, failed to make it out of the second inning. There were some noticeable improvements from Oviedo in this game after he struggled in 2020. It was just one appearance, so his numbers will not mean anything unless he can replicate them over the course of the season, but Oviedo appears to have increased his velocity and movement on every pitch, while still managing to control his pitches. To begin with, Oviedo’s fastball averaged 96.4 miles per hour in the game after averaging 94.8 miles per hour in 2020. Additionally, his average spin rate rose by nearly 150 rpm. The benefit of this, is that not only did his fastball move faster, but it also rose more and had increased horizontal break. Oviedo’s four seamer dropped just 16.7 inches according to Baseball Savant (which factors in the effects of gravity), which is 30% less drop than the average fastball. Due to this, Oviedo’s fastball had an increased rising effect to go with a nearly 2 inch gain in horizontal movement. This makes Oviedo’s fastball much more difficult to hit, and if he can maintain these improvements, then he could have a plus fastball this year. Oviedo’s slider also improved, gaining over 1 mph from last season while also increasing in both vertical and horizontal movement. Generally a hard slider has sharper movement, while a slower slider has more, but loopier, movement. However, for Oviedo in his first appearance, his slider increased in both velocity and movement. This makes it more difficult for the hitter to hit, as the pitch is both harder and sharper while also breaking 53% more horizontally than the average slider. Additionally, Oviedo’s curveball also gained more break in both the vertical and horizontal directions. This means that both of his offspeed pitches appeared to have improved in his first game which gives him a weapon against lefties, who primarily face his curveball, and righties, who primarily face his slider. His ability to improve these secondary pitches could be what determines if he will stick in the rotation long term or move to the bullpen, and through one game this season, it appears that thes
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