Listened to the interview with DiPoto and the best thing is he going to be throwing his 4 seamer again and he is going to be throwing it up in the strike zone.
In Jeff Sullivan's Fangraphs chat on Friday, somebody lobbed in a question about the three most interesting March stories. Incisively, Sullivan pointed out that Felix is one of his three because "he has something to prove" and, you can fill in your own details as to why that's more interesting than Tyler Motter having something to prove also.
That pitchers go through career transitions at the 2,000 IP mark, we knew. That some of them fail, and that some of them do great, we also knew. What we did not know, was specifically how he would attempt this. Fortunately, Dr. D says modestly, Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais have the optimal plan for it.
Brent Stecker is def the real deal. He serves up the intel in this My Northwest article. From that piece:
... the Mariners are actually looking for a brand new King.
That’s because, as general manager Jerry Dipoto said Tuesday on “Brock and Salk”(and manager Scott Servais echoed a day later on the same show), the coaching staff and front office has a new plan for Felix – one that includes a lot more pitches in parts of the strike zone that aren’t in the lower half.
“One of the things that he did last spring that I thought was interesting when he got out there, everything was down, down, down, down, down,” Dipoto said. “Once we got in the regular season, at some point changing eye levels becomes a necessity.”
It was always weird that Felix got away with 92 fastballs knee-high alternating with 89 changeups knee-high. Everything the same SPEED as well as the same area. He succeeded only because of the freakish "changeup" and hair-fine command that consistently stayed out of the middle of the plate. Game in, game out, F/X would show 6-pitch sequences none of which ever got more of the plate than a tiny edge. It's hard to hit a pitch hard when it's not coming through the area you can reach with your bat.
But last year Felix' fastball was both (1) slow and (2) drifting into the plate. He gave up a .430 SLG, or something, in the second half, as batters simply swatted fat pitches into the gaps.
The baseball cliche is, "keep the ball down." A better cliche is, "Change the eye level." Hey, at age 54 I'll guarantee I can still armlock you if (1) you tell me ahead 10 seconds before the fact (as Felix did, taking the sign with two strikes) that you're swinging a right hook at my left cheek, and (2) your arm is slow. :- ) But if you're a kid with quick hands and feet who is delivering crisp shots at different target levels, it's a different story. Can't understand why this is a complicated idea.
Hey, the 2-strike high fastball to Pujols? It doesn't have to be outer third, stomach high. It can be on the inside edge of the plate. Or it can get above the hands to cause a pop, like 'Kuma does and like Chris Young does. Or differ'nt things.
We might add, Felix did have a -8 MPH curveball as his change-speed game, but that was only 2-3 times per inning at best, and it seemed to always come early in the count. Can you imagine Felix with a 'Kuma ladder fastball and then the big yakker with two strikes?! He wouldn't do it, because he loves his dry spitter, not that we all don't.
Felix has absolutely everything he needs to be a very good old player, if he is willing to morph his ttack to include pitches up. Dipoto and Servais have signalled they are going to press this. The TV games start in two days. You know what to watch for.