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Breaking ball key to Braddock’s future

September 21, 2010

MILWAUKEE — Watching from the home bullpen this week, Brewers lefty Zach Braddock could learn a lot from Reds phenom Aroldis Chapman.

Both pitchers possess left-handed power arms, albeit on different levels. Both pitchers also operate with a slider as their No. 2 pitch. The difference — besides an extra 10 mph in fastball velocity — is the effectiveness of those sliders.

While Chapman’s is nearly unhittable, Braddock’s remains a work in progress.

“He is going to be as good in the big leagues as his breaking ball becomes,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “You just can’t come here and just throw one fastball after another, and being 93 [mph], it’ll get knocked around a bit.”

In six appearances this month, Braddock has posted a 7.71 ERA, giving up two runs on two walks and three hits in 2 1/3 innings. Opponents are batting .333 with a .795 OPS off Braddock in September.

For the first time this season, Braddock failed to record an out in each of his last two outings, surrendering a hit to the only batter he faced in each appearance. Aside from a 9.00 mark in three late May outings, Braddock’s 7.71 ERA this month is easily his worst in any month of the season.

Even worse has been Braddock’s performance against lefties, which could likely be attributed to a lack of effectiveness with his breaking ball.

After holding left-handed hitters to a .091 batting average in July and hitless in August, they are batting .400 off Braddock this month.

With those recent struggles in mind, Macha opted not to pitch the lefty Monday night against left-handed-hitting slugger Joey Votto with one on and one out in the eighth. Macha pointed to the last two games in San Francisco to back up his thought process.

“[Kameron] Loe came in and went right through their guys, [Aubrey] Huff being one of them,” Macha said. “The next day, I brought in Braddock against Huff and he hit a line drive. So, I figured Loe could go two innings.”

When asked if Braddock’s performance could be attributed to fatigue at the end of a long season, Macha pointed to the need for a better slider as a counter argument.

Braddock agreed with his manager’s assessment, though he believed his fastball was equally important to his success.

“When I have the ability to change speeds and move in and out, I can be more deceptive. I’m a better pitcher,” Braddock said. “I think strike one and fastball command is of a lot of importance, too. But with the slider comes the added ability to put in the hitters’ minds that there’s something else.”

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