On a grander scale, we remember back in the dawn of the Internet Age. When Hideki "Typhoon" Irabu was landing on the Eastern Seaboard and none of us had seen him. He was reputed to have a 100 MPH fastball and about six different offspeed pitches, which, if true, would have made him not a Cy Young contender but good and sufficient cause for changing baseball's rules.
It was remarkable how little video was available on Edwin Diaz. MILB.com had like two pitches' worth, taken from a range that would have gotten Mojician into the moose hunter's hall of fame. YouTube had a couple of minutes' worth ... from behind the chainlink backstop, two years ago. It was like watching a Cuban pitcher debut. Is Diaz more control or is he more velocity? Would he have eyes like saucers, or a false bravado like Roenis Elias, or a general Bambi demeanor like Brandon Morrow, or what?
There was no such video problem at Safeco. The M's were down two but still in it. Servais waved in his shiny new toy. Chris Gimenez stepped in and Diaz ...
(1) Leisurely fired a 96-MPH fastball into a teacup, low and away, 0-1. He casually reached to Iannetta to take the ball back, leaned back, and
(2) Pulled the string on an 89-MPH slider, arm action 6 on a scale of 10, and the slider hit the same teacup. 0-2. Dr. D is thinking paintball artist. Then on pitch three
(3) Soriano, er, Diaz, screamed a 100-MPH fastball that he pulled outside. 1-and-2.
(4) Diaz got a slider up, 88 MPH, and Gimenez hit it sharply to Kyle Seager for an out.
Wow. Well, that left Dr. D still kind of wondering "velocity or location?"
Tyler Naquin stepped in. First pitch, 100 MPH challenge fastball, taken strike one. We fancied that Naquin blinked several times. Second pitch, 100 MPH challenge, taken strike two. We fancied that Naquin closed his eyes and kept them closed. Third pitch, 100 MPH challenge pitch, Naquin poked at the ball and came nowhere near it. Ron Luciano, in Fall of the Roman Umpire, wrote that sometimes you literally cannot see a Nolan Ryan-type fastball. "Anybody could hear that was low"...
Here, click this link and bask in the cell that is labeled [ Velo (max) ] by [ FF (four-seam fastball) ]. It's fun. And let me know the next time you see that number, in that cell, for a pitcher. ... I guess it woulda been more remarkable if James Paxton hadn't just thrown 25 of them earlier on the evening...
But imagine if Tony Zych or Tom Wilhelmsen or somebody had just thrown those pitches. We'd be going, wow, here's our top closer.
Rajai Davis swung through an 89-MPH slider, 0-1. He took another C-note for 0-2. He foul-tipped a 101 fastball. And when he managed to ground out on a slider, he trotted back to the dugout beaming.*
Here's an article on Diaz' outing. Servais and Iannetta had to yank on the leash a little bit, go "Whoa ho there, kid, journos, it's not as easy as that." You saw the kid's demeanor. He had his shoulder hunched and eyes narrowed, exactly like a boxer wading in with his chin protected. Diaz obviously feared nobody; he threw every single pitch for a strike and happened to miss with one of them.
There were limitations. This location chart, from a right hand side arm pitcher, isn't a finished product. It's a kid coming in and saying "here it is, hit it." When a kid does that, then that's what they're going to do, sooner or later. But c'mon. That location chart for a major league debut is pretty much ideal. He can put the finishing touches on as he goes, like expanding the strike zone when he's ahead in the count.
Diaz can certainly give us Strike One, that much we know. Dr. D is not one to soft-pedal the value of a consistent strike one.
But, hey, Troy Percival and Fernando Rodriguez used to pitch like this too - every pitch a challenge pitch, just with some offspeed thrown down the middle too. To throw like that, Diaz will need consistent 96+, but maybe for one inning he can. One way or another, Diaz threatens to become the first top closer the M's ever brought out of their farm system.
That's kind of funny, isn't it? That the biggest relief name out of the M's minors was like Mike Schooler or Shane Rawley or something? Maybe we needed to bring Jerry DiPoto in sooner.
Speaking of. Based on that one outing, Diaz did look to me more like an "impact reliever" than a starting pitcher - with that arm slot and those two pitches, it's easy for me to imagine Ervin Santana if he's 93 MPH in the rotation. Or, a star if Diaz has 96 in the rotation or plus-plus command in the rotation, which seems farfetched. That would be quite a platypus.
Just saying. After one paltry inning's worth of 'im, the easiest visual is Santana in the rotation, or Rafael Soriano in the bullpen.
YEAH, AND DIDN'T YOU USED TO BE ... A 120 ERA+ STAFF
Bottom line is --- > those looked like two pretty radical adds to the pitching staff Monday night, didn't they? :- )