Milwaukee Brewers: Eric Lauer and His New Pitch

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 27: Eric Lauer #52 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches pitches against the Minnesota Twins on August 27, 2021 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 27: Eric Lauer #52 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches pitches against the Minnesota Twins on August 27, 2021 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

Eric Lauer has become the unheralded member of the Milwaukee Brewers rotation. Acquired in a deal that was scrutinized by many, Lauer has flourished over a substantial stretch of time and has become an integral part to the Brewers’ successful season.

After a rough start to the season, Lauer has been phenomenal for the Milwaukee Brewers.

The season did start off bumpy for Lauer. After allowing 3 earned runs in 5 innings on a June 20th start against the Rockies, Lauer’s ERA inflated to a season high 5.21. Since that June 20th start, however, Lauer has been absolutely sensational. In the 11 appearances he has made since then, which includes 10 starts and one relief appearance, Lauer has a 1.85 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP in 58.1 innings.

So what has changed for Lauer?

The answer is really fascinating. From the beginning of the season to July 3rd, Lauer’s pitch repertoire was 4-seam fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup. The total number of sliders thrown by Eric Lauer was 0.

Since July 3rd, Lauer has thrown a total of 172 sliders. You can clearly see the uptick in his slider usage here. It is rare to see a pitcher add an entirely new pitch to their pitch mix midway through the season, but the slider has been a game changer for him.

Against Lauer’s slider, batters are hitting just .140 and slugging .220 against it while whiffing nearly 25% of the time.

The use of the slider has allowed Lauer to drastically cut down the use of his cutter. Batters have been hitting Lauer’s cutter pretty well, slugging .494 against it on the year. Before introducing the slider to his pitch mix, Lauer was throwing his cutter 26.9 percent of the time, compared to now, only 14.3 percent of the time.

In fact, since July 3rd, Lauer’s slider (thrown 17.6 percent of the time) has overtaken the cutter for his second highest thrown pitch, only behind his 4-seam fastball.

Another thing to note when comparing Lauer’s cutter to his new slider is the difference in pitch speed. The average speed of Lauer’s cutter is 90.2 mph while the average velocity for Lauer’s slider is 87.2 mph. The similar pitch speeds seem to have fooled batters on occasion into thinking they are getting a 4-seam fastball or a cutter and end up being out in front of a slider.

Here is a video of Lauer before he started using the slider.

This cutter in the video above is not horribly placed, but Ozzie Albies is sitting on it, and he demolishes it 425 feet to dead center.

Here is a video of Lauer using the slider.

The count is 2-0 and Jacob Stallings is sitting on the cutter. Instead, Lauer gives him the slider and Stallings is way out in front of it. The pitch to Albies and the pitch to Stallings are both put in similar spots and both of the batters are looking for the cutter or the fastball, but the results are much different. The addition of the slider has really gotten batters off of their timing.

Not only has the use of the slider reduced the amount of fastballs and cutters that Lauer throws, but when he does throw them they are now more effective because of the slider.

Here is an example of how the slider has improved Lauer’s fastball. In this situation Lauer is ahead in the count 0-1 and gives Byron Buxton a really good slider. At this point Buxton is down 0-2 and is not sure whether or not to expect another slider. Instead Lauer gives him one of his hardest fastballs at 93.4 mph. Buxton is late and chases.

To be clear, this is not the first time that Lauer has thrown a slider in his career. In fact, for the majority of last year, Lauer threw a slider. But to start throwing a pitch in the middle of the season that he has not thrown all year must have been a deliberate decision.

Lauer’s slider is now arguably his best pitch and it allows him to mix up his other pitches and use them in various counts and situations. The slider has pushed Lauer into contention to get a game 4 start in the NLDS if necessary. Next time Lauer takes the mound look out for the difference between his slider and his cutter. The difference is slight, but it has made all of the difference in the world for Lauer and the Brewers pitching staff.