Nick Martinez, a RoughRider-turned-Ranger in 2014, is working to pinpoint his major league approach during this development-centric season.
The 24-year-old Martinez has had an up-and-down campaign, and is without a quality start since June 21. Still, he feels good about his development.
'I've learned a lot,' he said. 'Not only just pitch sequences but I'm thinking differently. I'm definitely thinking faster and thinking a whole lot different.'
There has been a gap between the thought process and the execution, at least of late.
For Martinez -- who has been younger than the average age of pitchers at each minor league level for the last four years and still holds a 3.26 career MiLB ERA -- a 7.08 ERA over his last 11 starts at the big league level is a drastic change in results.
But how his opponents are doing their damage it is also a drastic change. He forced 53.6 percent ground balls in the minors in 2013, according to MLBFarm but this year he has seen that number fall to just 32.7 percent, with a 47 percent fly ball rate at the major league level, according to Fangraphs.
'With some guys it's a different approach, but at this level I'm just taking outs where I can get them, whether it's a ground ball or a fly ball at the wall,' Martinez said. 'These are the best hitters in the world. You can't be picky with how you get your outs.'
Martinez has given up 11 home runs in his last 11 starts. And while an uptick in home runs could be expected as a high fly ball rate catches up to a young pitcher, Martinez said it's just an execution issue.
Most of the home runs, he said, have come in counts where the hitter can be more aggressive, like in Friday night's start against Los Angeles, when one of Kole Calhoun's three hits was a three-run bomb tattooed 413 feet into the upper deck in right field.
It was the difference between a quality start and a loss. One unexecuted pitch, as manager Ron Washington put it.
'I threw some fastballs in his sweet spot on fastball counts,' he said.
He's on to something.
Martinez has allowed 22 extra base hits, including eight home runs, after falling behind in the count. Hitters have a .327 batting average in those situations this year.
Growing pains are a part of every young pitcher's foray into a major league rotation. For Martinez, taking his lumps is a part of finding his identity.
'A lot of it is just about learning. I've got to be able to play with the big boys,' he said. 'They're going to rough me up a little bit, and it's my job to learn.'
Landon Haaf is a writer and editor for WFAA, a sports geek and dress sock enthusiast. He is a member of the IBWAA and has covered the Rangers during the 2012-14 seasons. You can find Landon's musings on sports and some decent puns at his Twitter account, @LandonHaaf.