The 2018 season has been one of growth for Padres’ left-handed pitcher Eric Lauer. I spoke with him recently about his walk rate and the usage of his third pitch, which is a changeup. Here is what he had to say.
Eric Lauer is a strike thrower. His walk rate in 2018 is up to 3.84 which is the highest it has been since his freshman year at Kent State. I had been wanting to get something on the record from him about his walk rate, and I got the chance on Wednesday before the game against the Giants. He graciously spoke with me for a few minutes in front of the dugout.
Knowing Eric as I do, I was certain that he was not happy about the multiple free passes he has issued throughout the season.
I wanted to know if he was working on anything mechanically and if that was an issue leading to the walks. “I think that (the walk rate) is more of a comfort thing than anything mechanically. It’s about attacking the zone and not getting behind guys and being timid.” He feels that a few times the game sped up on him a bit. That is natural for a young pitcher. The fact he recognizes this will only make him a better pitcher in the long run.
We spoke about the hitters in the league and the skill level in the majors. “Obviously these guys know the zone better than any hitters I have ever faced. I cannot get away with nearly as much as before. Unless you set them up perfectly, they are not going to see it wrong.” He knows that he has to make his pitches, but realizes that he can’t try to be too fine.
He is growing as a pitcher mentally and reports to me that he feels great physically. In seeing Eric over the years, he has definitely put on muscle. It’s hard to remember that he is only 23 and will undoubtedly get bigger and stronger, as he discovers a training routine that fits him best. There is much upside with this lefty and the walk rate will even out in time.
I next asked Eric about his changeup. He has only thrown it 66 times this year and it is a weapon that he could eventually utilize better to keep hitters off-balance. “That’s been a work in progress for the last two or three years. That has always been my last pitch. I haven’t really needed it until now. If I can develop that, it will just be another weapon.” Eric tells me that he plans on working on the pitch before next year. It is a total “feel” pitch though and sometimes it takes a special player to teach, or a particular grip to get a player to properly utilize the pitch at an advanced level.
We next talked about his repertoire and what he has felt comfortable with. “Adding the slider/cutter this year has been big for me. The cutter is more natural. The slider is something we are still working on shape wise and velocity wise.” Darren Balsley has been working with Eric on the pitch since the spring. He is still learning the nuances of the pitch.
Joey Lucchesi and Eric have become very good friends. I asked Eric about Joey and this is what he told me. “We came up together. Another goofy guy like me. Maybe he is a little more goofy” he said with a chuckle. “He is cool. We came up together. We can bounce things off of each other. We are pretty much at the same point in our career. It is cool to have him here. We calm each other down and also pump up each other when we need it.” The duo feeds off one another while providing comfort at the same time.
We got to talk about Eric’s swing, so I asked him who was the better hitter between him and Lucchesi. “Oh me. By far. Are you kidding me?!? He will run into one every once in a while, but I don’t know if it is on purpose. Yes. I definitely take that one.” I spoke to Joey earlier that day and he conceded that fact to Lauer. He was not as emphatic about it, though.
The maturity level for Lauer is very high. He has had the misfortune of not having success (in a few starts) at the major league level already in his career. Only a few games here and there, but still bad performances. There is no sign that those experiences disturbed him at all, as he recognizes what he failed in and is determined to improve upon that. You learn more from defeat than success in the game of baseball. These tough losses in 2018 will only make Lauer a better pitcher in the long run. Enjoy Padres fans. The lava is flowing.