Wade LeBlanc’s Moyer-esque success partly owed to another pitching legend’s advice
Wade LeBlanc is left-handed, throws a fastball in the 80s and relies on weak contact to get hitters out.
The 33-year-old LeBlanc has looked especially Jamie Moyer-like this year for the Mariners, maintaining a 2.60 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 11 games, the last six of which have been starts as part of Seattle’s rotation. It’s been quite the contrast for opponents to face LeBlanc the day after seeing a much more hard-throwing southpaw in James Paxton, too.
“Pax does it obviously a lot different than I do it and he can kind of get amped up and use that to his advantage,” the down-to-earth LeBlanc said to Danny, Dave and Moore. “I have to try to stay as even-keeled and kind of low key as I can to try to execute.
“… Don’t get me wrong, baseball looks a lot more fun for James Paxton than it feels for me on the mound. It seems like it would be easier for a guy like that to go out and dominate a game, but at the same time you take what you have, you take what God gave you, and you do the best you can with it. God gave me the ability to learn how to read swings. That’s one thing that I feel like I’m able to do really well is understand what a hitter’s trying to do against me. Which makes it easier for me to adjust my gameplan to attack him in a way that allows me to have success.”
For LeBlanc, a 10-year MLB veteran who played in Japan and Triple-A as recently as 2015, relying on winning the mental battle against hitters is absolutely crucial to his success on the mound.
“If I can throw any of the four pitches in the strike zone at any time, it’s hard for a human being to cover inside, outside, slower, faster, top, bottom – it’s hard for hitters to cover all those at one time,” LeBlanc said. “So if I can command location and speed inside the strike zone, it’s hard for guys to have success against that. Not just me, against that mindset.”
Part of that mentality comes from listening to another pitcher who used craftiness to his advantage – Hall of Famer and four-time Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux.
“I heard Greg Maddux talk one time in spring training with the Padres, and he said whenever stuff starts speeding up, he thinks go slower. Because as a hitter, when you’re out there and you see runners in scoring position, (you) grip the bat a little tighter, you swing a little harder, you want to hit the ball a little further. So that would benefit me if I pulled back a little more; if I throw a little bit slower than you think I’m going to throw, it probably works out to my advantage. And if you look back to (last Thursday’s Mariners win), I got a strikeout on a breaking ball, which I don’t get many of those.
“Whenever I get into situations like that it’s really something that benefits me if I’m able to slow things down.”
You can listen to the full segment with LeBlanc on Danny, Dave and Moore in this podcast.