Pitchers' Duel

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So, that was one of my fave games for pitching I've seen since Moyer.  You know, real pitching.  You might think that at 33-62 the White Sox couldn't hit a koosh ball with a cricket bat, but actually their OPS+ is a respectable 93, far above the real sad sacks of the league KC and Bal at 81.  And at 6-1, 3.44, Wade LeBlanc becomes the second M's lefty to exceed James Paxton in earned run average.

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Malcontent had tried to tell me that LeBlanc has a curve ball, which I kinda laughed off because the 72-MPH change curve is target-rich in today's 110-MPH launch velo environment.  But his split today was 28-22-18-17 and the more I looked, the more I liked LeBlanc's hurkin' two-plane David Wells curve.  

Time and again he threw it on the first pitch, drawing stunned silence from the aggressive White Sox hitters who were looking for 87-MPH fastballs down the middle.  And of LeBlanc's 17 hooks, 11 were strikes, it seemed 17 were low, 3 were whiffs, and 0 were put in play for base hits.  If there's one thing I want to see more of from this dude, it's more of that 2-planer.  Gor-geoussss.

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In fact with that deuce in there dealing massive destruction, I took to counting up all the weapons this guy has:

BACKDOOR SLIDER/CUTTER.  As in the first pitch of this video rat cheer.  Also in the 5th pitch of the vid, in that case "expanding the zone" as the scouts say.  Also in the 9th pitch, 0:50.

UP-THE-LADDER FASTBALL that, after the first inning or two, draws reactions much more like a 92 MPH heater.  Second pitch of the vid.  Same thing in the 8th pitch, 0:45 on the tape.

TEMPTATION DEADFISH CHANGEUP thrown off the plate.  Third pitch.

SHIN-HIGH DEADFISH CHANGEUP to a left-hander!  Fourth pitch.  During this game I also realized that LeBlanc has a consistent weapon vs. LHH - the changeup knee high and centered.  Works in the zone or out of it.

Also in the 7th pitch of the video to a righty (0:37), a changeup thrown not "dead fish" off the low-away corner, but simply Tommy John style at the shins. Brav-O amig-O.  These are all repeatable weapons.

Same thing at 0:54.

"BACKUP SLIDER" - 6th pitch, thrown AT the batter to make him backpedal, then breaking back to nip the insider corner.  Best thrown above the hands.

LOW CUTTER as a knee-pounder, great when behind in the count, a bread-and-butter pitch.  1:02 on the tape.

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Besides the above -- and we are talking about real weapons here, not just one-offs -- the curve isn't even listed.  He pitched "backwards" with it, throwing it to snip a first strike and then coming back with two strike fastballs.  Which can be thrown as up-the-ladder pitches, as paintballs on the black, as jam pitches above the hands, and just low-away bread and butter strike getters.

His BEST pitch is a deadfish changeup in the zone, "filthy" as Hyphen called it, yep thrown INSIDE the zone.  It works so well because of his super deceptive arm action and because of the great drop right at the end.

So what is that?  I count a good 9-10 different weapons he's got.

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Like we sez he is 6-1, 3.44 with a 76-19 CTL and is looking more like Jamie Moyer to me every day he throws.  I think the thing I like best about him is $3M per year with 3 club options and here's a guy who wouldn't chafe at the swing man role if the M's came up with 5 stars* in front of him.

Malcontent had this guy as Jamie Moyer early on and I'm starting to buy in.  Doesn't mean he's going to win 250 games, but right now I'll take him as a #3 starter on a playoff team.  Big time.

Finally a gratutitous stat:  if he qualified, he'd now be #12 in the AL for ERA.

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Enjoy,

Dr D

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Comments

1
tjm's picture

It's eeirie how this is looking like Moyer redux - age arc, pitch mix, cajones of steel. This might be an even beter era for this type of pitcher with everybopdy swinging from the heels all the time. Remember, Moyer said his great advantage was the vanity of MLB hitters who swore to themselves to never, ever, get beat by the fastball. so they're always sitting fastball.

I was taught as a young pitcher to never throw a changeup to a bad hitter. There are no bad hitters in MLB! All these guys are looking to go deep virtually all the time. Throw that thing forever. (Off point, but one of the things I love most about Haniger is he's always ready for the non-hero single to the right side.) 

3

The weirdly similar career paths shared by Leblanc and Moyer were among the first things to draw my attention.  But I'm real happy about that curve, checking Brooks, he used his curve as a first pitch to Lefties a stunning 67% of the time, and he even used it a little more often against Righties; he actually throws it to righties normally around 15% of the time for a first pitch surprise and then never again.   In his last start, he showed a little willingness to mix it in deeper in counts.  I'm super excited about last night's start getting him back on track.

5

IIRC he got about 450 AB's for the '01 M's, always at a different position....

6

A weird Dipoto move in that he's been atrocious with the glove the past two years....but he can whack the ball.

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