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Anatomy of a pitching meltdown, part 2: Manny Parra and Jeremy Guthrie

Milwaukee's Manny Parra went from being about average last year (his first full season in the Majors) to being absolutely terrible this year. So what changed for this promising young left-hander? Well for starters, he, like Scott Kazmir, suffered a noticeable drop in his fastball speed this year. Even though Parra had relied less heavily on his fastball in the past than Kazmir had, the results have been equally catastrophic. In his 2008 campaign, batters were already teeing off quite regularly against his straight-as-an-arrow-fastball compared to his other offerings (a curveball, a splitter and a changeup), and that certainly hasn't gotten any better this year. He also has not been throwing his splitter as often as last year, relying more on his changeup instead. This, combined with his drop in velocity suggests to me a possible injury, as the splitter is known to be hard on a pitchers arm (just ask Rich Harden, who abandoned the pitch for that reason). Even so, his ERA last year (4.39) was considerably better than it should have been based on his other numbers (a WHIP of 1.54, for example), so his lousy season so far should not have come as a huge shock to anybody. A demotion to AAA Nashville hasn't helped him any, and it's a safe bet to say that he's a lost cause for this year.

Jeremy Guthrie of the Baltimore Orioles is another pitcher who has fallen from grace. Coming into the season, Guthrie was the only certainty in Baltimore's rotation, and he has been a disappointment for much of the year. His downfall is a little harder to explain than the two aforementioned pitchers, as Guthrie has shown no considerable loss in velocity, and his use of the various pitches in his arsenal looks very similar to what he's thrown in the past. So, what's the big difference this year? Well, he's given up a whopping 29 dingers in 154 innings, which is well above his career norms. A close look at his pitch location for the year shows that he's been leaving a lot more balls over the heart of the plate, which would explain why batters are taking advantage, regardless of which type of pitch he throws. However, he's put together two great starts in a row, so he may be turning the corner. His strikeout rates aren't going to help anybody's fantasy team much, but if he continues to work on keeping his pitches away from the heart of the plate, he may be able to net you a few wins and help your ERA and WHIP.