Does Hyphen really look that bad in stuff?
=== David Aardsma ===
Having been the guy who sounded four alarms at the suggestion that Mr. 38-for-42 was a big time closer, now permit us to swing the pendulum a bit the other way...
Aardsma has been hit this spring, no doubts there, but it's not real likely he's about to get Bobby Ayala'ed under a road grader.
Aardsma has a mid-90's fastball that, in his case, looks like high-90's, and he is "effectively wild" to boot. He's white-knuckle, true, and the M's might have to swap Kelley or League in there sooner rather than later.
But neither is it a situation where you've got Eddie Guardado buying slo-pitch helmets for his infielders. Aardsma can throw strikes when he's throwing 90% fastballs, and it's not the easiest thing in the world to hit a home run at Safeco.
Keep an eye on it, si. Buy extra insurance, si. Run screaming into the night about it, no. Lotta teams slap a 96-mph guy in the 9th and just tell him to heave it in there.
=== Ryan Rowland-Smith ===
Every time he takes the mound, his change-speed game is better.
Every time he takes the mound, his fastball is feebler.
Little basketball metaphor: When Lenny Wilkens took over from the 5-17 Bob Hopkins in 1977, he had one great strength. Marvin "The Human Eraser" Webster, a baaaaaaaaad 7-1 center.
Lenny put four hungry players (Gus Williams, Dennis Johnson, Jack Sikma and JJ) out there with The Eraser. He told them to step up and deny the perimeter shot. He told them to play with their sideline foot towards the shooter.
This, of course, funnelled an I-405 traffic jam into the paint, where Lenny's One Big Asset awaited to deliver the denouement ...
The K/BB's from these scrubs are approaching ridiculous.
- Ian Snell is at 18/3, with 6 homers in two and a half games.
- RRS is at 14/3 with an 87 fastball.
- Fister and Vargas, we imagine you know why Wok selected them.
These guys simply will not throw ball four. The hitters have two choices: (1) hit from behind in the count 0-1, 1-2, 0-2, or (2) whale at a first pitch -- which, mediocre though it might be, is in a place and time not of the hitter's choosing.
RRS, Snell, Fister and Vargas are going to force you to hit the ball through 8 very good fielders or over very distant Safeco fences. Though collectively they are about as talented as Erik Bedard's third pitch, the coherent approach has just got to make you smile.
It certainly is no accident that the wizards at Royal Brougham have put these rawhide-tough, Never Say Die Rocky Balboas in front of their defense and park. And though teams will sometimes take some victories from the M's, they're never going to be given victories cheaply.
He was a little down again with the velo last night...it says here, however, that he went 84-86 in his first two starts, 86-88 in his next two starts, 88-91 in his next two starts 90-92 in his last start before this one...and now 87-89 in his final TUNE UP game. Does anyone here think it's possible...just possible...he didn't have command of his fastball so he gear-shifted down to locate the thing? The innings I saw of RRS, he was getting UUUUUGLY garbage swings on his change-up and curve ball and locating his fastball on the inside corner a lot to the righties, but getting lit up by the LEFTIES in the Rockies' line-up. That means he wasn't able to get the inside corner on those lefties...probably because his fastball was mostly the CUT fastball that he's been working on.
Hence....I'm not worried about his fastball...it'll be there when he needs it.
Even if you accepted Doc's claim re: RRS' fastball, he also said RRS had better and better offspeed pitches. Last night he got hit a bit because of the park dimensions and the thin air (remember fols...curveballs don't curve much at 5000 feet) but his secondary pitches (change-up and curve) had GREAT arm action and deception and he got plenty of ugly swings and misses on them. I seem to recall Brad Hawpe taking two consecutive off-speed pitches right down the middle of the plate for easy strikes and then whuffing ugly after fouling off two fastballs when he got another change.
His stuff is fine...even with a lame fastball. Which he doesn't have. He's got a lame cutter...that he was working on in his final tune-up game.
Matt, I don't think you could've imagined an analytical summary of a pitcher that could've gotten me MORE excited about the future!!!
While it seems every other day somebody else is discussing this pitch or that pitch working (or not) ... I continue to sigh, because PITCHING (as opposed to throwing) is about what that guy on the mound does in RESPONSE to changing conditions. There were games when Randy Johnson had a curve ball that couldn't get Horacio Ramirez out. PITCHING is about recognizing the situation - and adapting what you CAN throw to the best effect possible.
If RRS is doing what you suggest - that is absolutely positively what PITCHING is about. And it is why young throwers tend to be erratic - waffling from dominance to putridtude from week to week. The PITCHER sees that he's not getting the outside call TODAY, and changes his game plan. The PITCHER realizes his curve is breaking 4 feet (instead of 2), and figures out he cannot throw it for strikes, (but he may use it to induce fishing).
It took Felix four YEARS to move from thrower to pitcher. For him, the difference between thrower and pitcher was 9-11 vs. 19-5.
Washburn is a pitcher with minimal "stuff". Washburn is the ultimate example of how LITTLE stuff one needs to have fine results - if one understand what pitching is all about. The thing is - "pitching" is next to impossible to "see" -- and even more difficult to capture numerically. Too many variables simply aren't captured.
Oh, you can tell the FB is "fast" or "slow" these days. But, analysis of pitchers look at ALL the data - "as if" the pitcher is throwing the same every game. But, given a lineup with 7 LH bats one start - and 7 RH bats the next - the pitcher HAS to pitch differently.
HoRam had the minimum amount of "stuff" I can recall - and yet, was a serviceable pitcher for a couple of years. If these BOR guys have more "stuff" than HoRam, then every one of them has a CHANCE at putting their tools to use, good enough to become solid, reliable PITCHERS.
I think RRS has some of that natural pitching instinct which allows for results beyond what analysis of "stuff" will ever reveal. (I can hardly imagine what the "stuff" analysis of Greg Maddux would've been like when he first broke in). Oh, he had super control. Then again, Saarloos showed otherworldly control in the minors - but very obviously did not turn into Greg Maddux in the majors.
Cliff Lee once upon a time was a thrower. He turned into a pitcher. Felix is a pitcher today, as is Bedard. Snell, Vargas, RRS ... I believe each has more than enough "ability" to succeed. The question for me is which will develop the pitching instincts to understand those moments when - "THIS guy - I can fan right now on my mushy, 87 mhp laser straight FB -- because he's dismissed it completely as a weapon." versus those times when the next guy up is someone who is going to crush the next FB near the plate into the Puget.
That he is more of a pitcher than a thrower...that he can change his pitch mix to stay marginally effective even when his fastball is not there for him for whatever reason, and that he's got a winner's presence on the mound (meaning when things go wrong for him, he doesn't get ticked off and start overthrowing or losing focus. I think Doug Fister has similar mound poise and pitcher's mentality...so those are the two guys (out of the four on the list of scrubs we're using after King Felix this month) that I have the most confidence in.
But the last game he pitched, before Colorado, it didn't look like he threw the cutter at all. At least PitchFX didn't pick it up, and his velocity was consistantly 88-91, with only a few drops to 86/87. I thought then that he might have scrapped it, but of course, all I was looking at was a PitchFX that has been wonky all spring and I don't really know how to decipher cutter movement from fastball movement so I had to defer to what it was telling me.
Fastballs move with outward run and and no break...cutters have a little bit of break (like a slider would) and a little bit of inward run.
I think the game before last, RRS was working on location of his fastball and change-up. This game he was working on location of his cutter and curveball.
Jeff, so the moral of the story is, we still need Lonnie Shelton? '77 was a great story in any era! Wouldn't it be fun to say the same about this year's Mariners!