Jameson Taillon Throwing New Slider as Normal Spring Allows Cubs to Create Better Pitching Plan

Last year’s lockout didn’t just mean getting off to a late start with spring training, it also prevented coaches from having contact with players for over three months. The whirlwind of rushing into camp and getting up to speed, physically for players and informationally for staff, meant everyone was sort of finding their way through a dark room for a while. That isn’t the case this year because pitching coach Tommy Hottovy has been in constant contact with his charges.

“I think from a training perspective, we can get into live BPs a little earlier and spread out that volume,” Hottovy told media members in Mesa. “So, it’s like maybe hit a live BP and then have a bullpen in between to work on some stuff, then another live BP, then you’re getting into games, instead of like ‘pen, ‘pen, live BP, live BP, game, which we’ve done for forever. But now we just know where guys are so you can plan that a little bit better.”

That pre-work wasn’t just a matter of catching up with familiar faces and establishing a rapport with new additions, they were really getting to work. Perhaps the most obvious example of that is a change to Jameson Taillon’s slider grip that took place even before the righty arrived at the Cubs’ facility.

Between rehabbing his second Tommy John surgery, the pandemic, and the lockout, Taillon has been running uphill for the past several springs. As such, all he had really been able to do in camp was sharpen his existing repertoire. That included a gyro slider that didn’t offer a ton of shape differentiation from either his curve or cutter, hence the move to a sweeper that should allow Taillon to be more deceptive.

“It was hard to truly have an offseason to really lock that down and work on it,” Taillon shared with the Sun-Times. “So, this year felt like a good time to try to add it. And so far, the results have been pretty promising. I’m excited to break it out in games and see how it fares, but metrically and stuff I’m pretty encouraged by it.”

Taillon was receptive to adopting a one-seam grip because he knew the slider had underperformed over the last couple of seasons, which is a little strange because the Yankees are renowned for developing sweepers. But again, it’s tough to establish anything new when all your energy is devoted to just getting back on the field. Though it’s not quite as simplistic as the trite change-of-scenery narrative, getting a fresh perspective certainly helped in this case.

The new slider will make its semi-competitive debut on Friday when Taillon throws his first live BP of the spring, which should give him and the coaches a much better idea of its effectiveness than just pulling TrackMan results. Giving the slider a different shape should help Taillon’s curve and slider to play up, but his fastball also needs to come around after getting pretty rough results last season.

A big part of that is dialing back on his sinker as a result of his TJ surgery and a belief that hitters were scooping the bottom of the zone for power. That theory doesn’t hold much water because Taillon has set career highs in home runs allowed in each of the last two seasons despite throwing the sinker far less than in previous seasons. As I see it, Taillon needs to be a little more like Marcus Stroman and let that sanker be sankin’ this year.


There will be plenty of other granules to pick up and examine over the next few days and weeks, but the common theme here is that the Cubs’ coaching staff knows its isht. Well, that and it’s much easier for everyone involved to have a normal schedule in February. This is really exciting stuff if you nerd out on the science of pitching, and it has me feeling better all the time about the Taillon signing.

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