Shoemaker: Focus, execution aid turnaround

Shoemaker: Focus, execution aid turnaround

ANAHEIM -- The fastball is up near the mid-90s, the splitter is a legitimate out pitch again, and the aggression is at an all-time high.

This is the Matt Shoemaker the Angels have been longing for.

When that Shoemaker last appeared, it was August 2014, the apex of an uplifting season in which he finished second in American League Rookie of the Year Award voting. Shoemaker since experienced an up-and-down 2015 season and struggled mightily through his first seven starts of 2016, his ERA at 8.49 and his foothold on a Major League job losing traction.

In the three starts that have followed, Shoemaker has given up four runs in 22 2/3 innings and, in the words of Angels manager Mike Scioscia, "has been as good as any pitcher in baseball."

Shoemaker pitched seven innings of two-run ball in a 3-0 Angels loss to the Tigers on Wednesday, five days after giving up two runs in 8 1/3 innings against the Astros and 11 days after twirling 7 1/3 scoreless innings against the Orioles. Since his last walk -- in the second inning of a May 16 start at Dodger Stadium -- Shoemaker has recorded 33 strikeouts, breaking a franchise record previously held by Frank Tanana, who struck out 30 batters between walks in 1976.

Shoemaker pinned his resurgence on "better focus, better execution," even if that may seem a little oversimplistic.

Shoemaker on Angels' 3-0 loss

"I think earlier the mentality got away from me," Shoemaker said. "I was kind of out there throwing, and now I'm actually pitching. I think that's the biggest thing, the biggest adjustment. I'm trying to execute each pitch, have a purpose. Earlier on, I feel like mentally I was just throwing. I'd grab the ball and throw it, and not have intent behind the pitch."

Shoemaker -- who pitched around 10 hits on Wednesday, eight of which were singles -- has given up 20 hits and struck out 31 batters over his last three starts, a stretch that has seen his ERA drop from 8.49 to 5.50.

"He's found his rhythm, he's found his delivery, he has a great process going, I believe he's preparing really well," Scioscia said. "He's back in touch with the way he needs to pitch."

Scioscia on Shoemaker, loss

Shoemaker's four-seam fastball was thrown at an average of 92 mph and topped out at 94 on the first day of June. His average velocity in May was 92.82 mph, the highest of any month in his career, according to PITCHf/x data.

Shoemaker credits part of that to the extra weight he normally packs on when the season begins. The 29-year-old right-hander said he has gained an extra 10 or so pounds since Opening Day, which "definitely helps" play up his fastball.

The splitter has been just as big a weapon, though.

Shoemaker has gone to that pitch -- the pitch that played such a big role in his breakthrough 2014 season -- 37 percent of the time over his last three starts. He has generated 43 swings and misses with that pitch over his last three starts, after generating just 20 of them over his previous seven starts.

"I know it's in there," Shoemaker said. "It's just a matter of going out and doing it."

Alden Gonzalez has covered the Angels for since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook , and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.