Adam Conley’s Third Time Through Issue

Adam Conley is having a pretty good season for a 26-year old in his first full MLB season. Adam Conley has looked great at points in this season, including 7.7 no-hit innings at Milwaukee in late-April. Adam Conley even brought a 2.59 June ERA into his final start of the month at Detroit. But Adam Conley has a problem. Well, two problems including that I won’t stop using his full name. Adam Conley can’t get through batting orders three times on consistent basis.

This was crystallized in his start at Detroit on June 28th. He only faced three guys for a third time, allowing a double, walk, and home run that finished off a five-run inning in which he relinquished his 3-0 lead. He had 62 pitches coming into the inning and left with 92. That’s right around his breaking point. He was better against Atlanta in his most recent outing, facing four guys for a third time and going strikeout, flyout, walk, and groundout. But situations like Detroit have been the norm for Conley this year.

Here are his breakdowns by times through and pitch count:

Times Through
Time Through PA AVG OBP SLG K%-BB%
1st 151 0.244 0.302 0.356 21%
2nd 144 0.198 0.312 0.298 11%
3rd 105 0.295 0.404 0.500 0%

 

By Count
Count PA AVG OBP SLG K%-BB%
Pitch 1-25 106 0.258 0.324 0.398 15%
Pitch 26-50 102 0.236 0.327 0.337 18%
Pitch 51-75 106 0.207 0.298 0.272 15%
Pitch 76-100 79 0.284 0.385 0.552 -3%

So what’s going on?

Based on my research, it is heavily influenced by one factor: his slider against righties. There are other contributing factors, but at the heart of his troubles is the loss of an effective slider to right-handers. It doesn’t just get a bit worse, it becomes virtually unusable. The first two times that righties see the slider, they’re toast with just a .024/.091/.024 line and 59% strikeout rate in 44 plate appearances. That is far and away the best triple slash in the league (min. 40 PA) in these situations (first two times through against righties).

Teammate Jose Fernandez is next best with a .077/.130/.123 line, though his 64% strikeout rate is even better than Conley’s and Fernandez has done it in 69 PA. Conley’s numbers are even more impressive considering he’s a lefty. He buries it in and under their hands brilliantly during those first two turns. Only 29% of them are even in the zone, but he still generates a 25% swinging strike rate while just 19% are put in play. Things change that third time through, though.

“We secretly switched Adam Conley’s devastating slider with Paul Sporer’s non-existent piece of crap slider for the third time through the lineup, can batters tell the difference?”

It’s a small 17 plate appearance sample, but righties tattoo the hell out of Conley’s slider in that third look with a .400/.471/.667 line, second-worst to only Jered Weaver (1.400 OPS in 20 PA) among the 42 pitchers with a minimum of 15 third-time-through slider plate appearances. Look at the sharp differences in results between the first two times through and that third time:

Slider Results
First Two Third
Zone% 29% 40%
SwStr% 25% 16%
InPlay% 19% 31%
Contact% 54% 72%

And now the differences in location:

Slider Locations
First Two Third
Vert-Middle 19% 27%
Low 75% 63%
Inside 78% 61%
Horiz-Middle 12% 27%

As I mentioned, the slider isn’t the only thing going wrong with Conley once he gets through the lineup twice, but his fastball doesn’t show such a sharp regression from elite to horrific like the slider. It goes from .790 OPS and a 19% K rate to 1.119 and 16%. As for the “why” behind the fall off, I don’t have a great answer. Considering how different the placement of the slider is, I’m leaning toward stamina. I don’t have a way to look at his release point from first/second times through to the third to see if something is happening there or not. He just isn’t nearly as sharp and really starts to tire.

There is definitely a breaking point for Conley and it is consistently coming after about 75 pitches. Maybe the Marlins would be better off following something their Florida brethren, the Tampa Bay Rays, did last year with some of their starters – namely Erasmo Ramirez and Nate Karns – and limit Conley to just two times through as the default with the occasional lengthened leash when he’s really on. It worked really well for the duo. Ramirez is no longer in the rotation this year and Karns was shipped out to Seattle this offseason or else it would’ve been interesting to see if they continued the practice. The Mariners haven’t done the same with Karns and now he’s in the bullpen after suffering through a 1.011 OPS in 83 PA his third time through compared to .675 and .612 the first two times. His ERA was up nearly a full run from last year at 4.57 after a 3.67 in 147 innings with the Rays.





Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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All Adam Conley Sliders thrown to RHB this year:
Innings 1-4
Avg Spin Rate 833
Avg Start Speed 86.01
Avg Px (x location pitch crosses plate) -.882
Avg Pz 1.74
Avg x0 (x release point) 2.76
Avg z0 5.90

Innings 5-8
Avg Spin Rate 784
Avg Start Speed 85.09
Avg Px (x location pitch crosses plate) -.66
Avg Pz 1.70
Avg x0 (x release point) 2.79
Avg z0 5.90

Not a lot there….
Little less spin, tick slower, few inches closer to center of plate… maybe thats enough (after all, pitching is hard)