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Maturation of Carlos Martinez: Now more than just a big fastball

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The first thing you notice when you watch Carlos Martinez pitch: the radar-gun readings. It's 96, 97, even 98, with regularity. In fact, the young St. Louis Cardinals righty -- he turns 24 on Monday -- throws the fifth-fastest four-seam fastball in the majors among starting pitchers.

For all that velocity, however, the four-seamer might actually be his worst pitch; it's the only one that is not above-average in terms of whiff rates, and it has allowed the highest slugging percentage on balls in play this year. "All the hitters who face me are looking for the four-seamer," Martinez said while grinning when I pointed out that the pitch has his worst homer rate.

Martinez has always had the high-velocity fastball, but clearly that's not responsible for a breakout season that has included a trip to the All-Star Game. So what's his secret? What is he doing differently here in his first full season as a starter? Answer: He tightened up the rest of his pitches, one by one. His changeup, sinker and breaking pitches are responsible for his becoming a top-20 starter this year in strikeout rate, ground-ball rate and ERA.

Let's take a closer look at what adjustments he made and the subsequent results: