Q. What's a "solid" pitch, a "plus" vs a "plus-plus" pitch? What is the difference between a quality pitch and a "weapon"?
A. On a 20-80 scale, a "50" grade is major league average in the good sense. Then there are the groups distinctly better (worse) than average; they're plus (or minus). There's another group that is clearly better than the plus group, and they're plus-plus, like this:
18 homers per season = 50 PWR = Average = Kendrys Morales, Alex Gordon
27 homers = 60 PWR = Plus = Andrew McCutchen, Matt Kemp, Kyle Seager
36 homers = 70 PWR = Plus-Plus = Jose Abreu, Josh Donaldson
44 homers = 80 PWR = Plus-Plus-Plus = Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz
Dr. D's favorite whipping boy, King Leonydas, has minus-minus PWR although if the moon is in full phase and somebody throws a 91 fastball low middle in, he can hit a ball 425 feet. Physical strength isn't really the point when you're talking component skills. ... what is the definition of "skill," again?
I should stop to say that Leonydas is in the top 1 out of 2.86 (E-7) human beings for baseball skill. He just isn't very good compared to major leaguers.
;- ) He could be okay. We're pretty tongue in cheek about Martin.
Q. How come I've never heard of anybody with an 80 weapon except for maybe Aroldis Chapman's fastball?
A. Usually you hear a skill with an actual 70 fastball referred to as a grade of "plus," and Craig Kimbrel's fastball in the majors as plus-plus. When you give one grade less, the idea is that you've seen so much, nothing impresses you. :- ) But it shouldn't be such a big deal to recognize that a player is two groups to the right of average.
Continuing with batting average:
.270 AVG = 50 HIT = Average = Alex Gordon, Kyle Seager (see? We told you MLB average is a compliment, not an insult)
.285 AVG = 60 HIT = Plus = Eric Hosmer, Ian Kinsler
.300 AVG = 70 HIT = Plus-Plus = Robinson Cano, JD Martinez
.320+ AVG = 80 HIT = Plus-Plus-Plus = Jose Altuve, Miguel Cabrera
Q. What's a good pitch vs. a pitch that is weapon?
A. All of Wade Miley's pitches are fine, but none of them are weapons. They all work because of a broader context.
During Nate Karns' performance on Friday, he showed 5-and-a-half weapons. That isn't counting his jam pitch, his intelligence, or any broader context. We're just talking about an 0-0 count and a random batter. The "70" weapons being:
1. His lockup curve ball for a called strike. (Thrown right down the middle with extra Cholula on the break.)
2. His low-away 93 fastball, so explosive that batters swing through it when looking for it. What a burn pitch this baby is. Love love LOVE his low-away heat.
3. His up-the-ladder fastball that guys can't catch up to.
4. His painted curve ball, away to RH batters, it's still good if it doesn't break hard, that they can't pull the trigger on.
5. His roll-off-the-table curve (doesn't have to be perfect) thrown thigh high that dives into the dirt for a garbage swing.
(5.5 or 6) When Karns happens to get fade and touch on his changeup to a LH, the batter can just forget about the whole thing. Doesn't happen often.
Yes, it's fair to count a fastball as two or three different weapons. Scouts do this. The fastball up is one weapon that Iwakuma uses in certain situations; the hair-fine fastball low away is another weapon used in different situations. But it takes extreme command before you'll allow this characterization. If a guy just misses high and the batter swings under it, that's not a deployable weapon.
Q. Why does Karns ever give up any runs?
A. Again, as last outing, the 6 IP and 3 ER could have been (and will be) a 7 IP, 0-1 ER outing if balls go at fielders. But still :- ) we didn't say every pitch is executed lethally. He mixes "weapon pitches" in with lesser pitches. He's still a rookie until April 4th.
But there's another thing: once again the KKKKarnivore threw as if all called "Ball!" resulted in a quick prod-jab of 5,000 volts to the armpit. Saturday vs. Colorado, he had 38 strikes against 9 balls; last outing it was 50 strikes against 13 balls. These two outings followed the news that he was the only #5 starter in camp.
It's a good problem to have. Any pitcher can take a little less of the plate if he cares to. You might remember Michael Pineda, in March 2011, started with a couple of those 50:13 outings and gave up five runs a couple times. This particular problem isn't one that is slow to fix.
... hold it. The box score has the pitch count wrong. ... same idea holds. Karns seemed to very rarely "expand the strike zone," aiming fastballs just off the plate. He just worked with his weapons inside the zone.
Say again, a nice problem to have.
:: he stops short :: Didn't Karns give up homers last year; wasn't that the holdup on a real low ERA? ... yep, 1.2 per nine. And 1.6 in a short stint 2014. That would explain that. It isn't a hittable high fastball; it is the need to expand the zone a little more.
Q. Leaving us where?
A. Karns still has room for growth; he isn't Iwakuma-mature yet. And nobody is guaranteed a sub-4.00 ERA. Slop happens. But! Relative to Dr. D's expectations for him in February? -- move him up one notch. And that's sayin a lot, Gentle Reader.
This hombre would certainly be an SSI Best Bet. That is, if anybody had any doubts for SSI to position itself against. Do you think anybody does? Speak up and we'll take full credit for yet another Best Bet bleacher shot.
:: eddie murphy, i spy :: Please somebody demur about Nate Karns' blue-chip TOR prospects. Pl pl Please.
We also like this Ketel Marte kid a little bit. A week's worth of August 2015 games removed all doubt about his back-to-front zone coverage and his HIT tool -- but we did have doubts about his gap power, his patience and his speed. All of which have lit up the jumbotron this spring. If you can't get excited about Ketel Marte's March, why watch baseball?