Thursday, April 8, 2010

Remember Steve Avery?

  • What happened to Cole Hamels's fastball?

I watched bits and pieces of the Phillies 8-4 win over the horrific Nationals last night and, when watching Cole Hamels, couldn't get the image of former Braves pitcher Steve Avery out of my head.

For those of you who don't remember Avery, he was supposed to be the best among the Braves big four starters, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Avery.

In the big leagues at 19, Avery had a power fastball; a great change-up; impeccable control; and was post-season money from age 21-23 as the young Braves were in the early stages of their amazing dynasty of the National League East. Then he fell out of favor as he struggled in 1994-1996; and his fastball all but disappeared.

If Avery were brought to the big leagues today, under no circumstances would his workload be as heavy as it was; but in the early 90s, not many people were paying that close attention to the minute details that are adhered to today in developing a young pitcher. At the ages of 21-23, Avery threw 210, 233 and 223 innings.

Mechanical issues plagued him; he fell into manager Bobby Cox's doghouse; and by 1997 was out of Atlanta and throwing almost sidearm for the Red Sox. His fortunes didn't improve in Boston; he bounced to the Reds; had arm surgery; didn't pitch from 2001-2002; attempted a brief comeback with his hometown Detroit Tigers before retiring at 33.

I still remember, after the Braves didn't even attempt to re-sign hjim following 1996, then-Mets GM Joe McIlvaine was a guest of Mike Francesa and Chris Russo on The Mike and the Mad Dog Show and responded to the duo's entreaties to sign Avery in a nonplussed tone, "What happened to (Avery's) fastball?"

His fastball----which had been in the mid-90s in his heyday----was puttering in at somewhere around 80 mph by the end. It's fine for Jamie Moyer at age 47 to be throwing that kind of slop; but when a pitcher is in his 20s? It's a sign of trouble.

I'm seeing that now with Cole Hamels.

Hamels's fastball hasn't degenerated to the depths of Avery's, but in watching him last night, he appeared to be trying to pitch like Moyer; not trusting his fastball; and trying to trick hitters. From his brilliance in the post-season of 2008 in which he was the NLCS and World Series MVP, Hamels's stuff has declined drastically. His fastball, which had been around 93 back then, has lost it's pop. He doesn't trust it or he doesn't have it. It's an issue that has to be worrisome to the Phillies.

Is it because he stopped throwing it?

Was it the extra work that was necessary in 2008 for the Phillies to win that cost him those critical inches?

Is he hurt?

There's an old adage that Tom Seaver heard from a veteran major leaguer on the way down as Seaver was on the way up (I'm paraphrasing): "You have to throw your fastball or you'll lose it." Perhaps Hamels is relying too heavily on location and not cutting loose.

Hamels's innings jumped from 132 in 2006; to 183 in 2007; to over 250 in 2008, including the post-season. This isn't to blame anyone from the Phillies for the jump; they needed him to pitch and it was worth it as they won the World Series with the masterful Hamels one of the keys; but last season, he was terrible and frazzled; despite a 14-10 won/lost record, his other numbers were across-the-board bad.

Where's his fastball?

He looks like he's trying to navigate his way through games rather than attacking hitters; the Nationals have some players who can hit, but they're an awful team. What's Hamels going to do with the Marlins? The Mets? The Cardinals? The Brewers? The teams that can hit?

I'm not a slave to the radar gun for any reason other than as a comparison; and Hamels's fastball and confidence are nowhere near where they were two years ago. If the Phillies are concerned about this, they're not letting on; but they have to be. Because there's something missing; and it's Cole Hamels's fastball.

He'd better find it----pardon the pun----fast.

If he can.

  • Indians 5-White Sox 3:

I'm curious if we'll hear how the Indians boosters and Fausto Carmona "comeback" theorists are going to spin last night's win over the White Sox as a validation that they're going to be "right".

We keep hearing suggestions of the Indians being a "surprise" team in the American League. The only surprise for me will be if they don't lose 100 games.

I didn't see the game, but looking at Carmona's line and I don't see all that much different from the pitcher who's been the right-handed Oliver Perez for the past two years. The line follows:

Innings pitched: 6

Hits: 1

Runs: 3

Earned Runs: 3

Walks: 6

Strikeouts: 1

Home Runs: 1

Pitches: 109; Strikes: 59

59 strikes and 50 balls? Six walks?

He's lucky he didn't give up eight runs.

It's exactly what he's been doing over the past two years, and nowhere near the "comeback" of Carmona to ace status that was supposed to be the key to an Indians revival. From the line, there's no comeback; no "fixed mechanical issues"; just the same-old, same-old from Carmona.

If this is what the Indians are going to get, you can completely disregard the twisted reality espoused by those who inexplicably think the Indians are going to be any good this year. They're going to be atrocious; in part because they don't have any pitching as evidenced by Carmona last night.

  • Viewer Mail 4.8.2010:

Joe at Statistician Magician writes RE Marco Scutaro:

Yes, it IS way to early to question whether or not Scutaro is going to succeed in Boston. He made one error. Who knows, he may make 30 this season. But anyone concerned after one error would not being thinking right.

Did you buy my book yet, Joe?

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Yankees bullpen:

I agree that the Yankees need more than one lefty in the pen. I would have kept Logan, because Marte, despite his very good postseason, scares me.

I don't understand why they kept Sergio Mitre over Boone Logan. I don't get it. They're going to burn Damaso Marte out by May at this rate. It makes no sense.

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE a properly constructed bullpen:

I have always thought that a successful bullpen has at least a couple of lefty pitchers, to split the workload.

I'm an advocate of two lefties in the bullpen even if one isn't particularly good for the mere threat of him being brought into the game. Tony La Russa has always----always, always, always----wanted two lefties out there. He doles out the workload evenly and uses the fact that the possibility is there to mitigate any moves the opposing manager could and would make as a hammer to prevent certain decisions.

What makes the Yankees decision to keep Mitre over Logan even worse is that Sergio Mitre is awful. If it was a good pitcher they were keeping, there'd be an argument; but it's Sergio Mitre!!!

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Joba Chamberlain:

That's the Joba I like watching. As asinine as he acts with his celebratory fist pumping, etc, he sure is entertaining. So I tip my cap.

The fist pumping is annoying, but I appreciate his talents being deployed properly. I despise players being misused and wasted because of dogmatic and self-serving agendas.

  • The Prince on the Podcasts:

Dig my podcast appearances from this past weekend with Sal at SportsFanBuzz. The Podcast links are available here---- Part I and Part II on Friday; then Sunday with Mike Silva at New York Baseball Digest. The link is here: NYBD Podcast. Fast forward to 1 hour and 36 seconds to hear me.

I was dedicating and signing a few copies yesterday and examining my handwriting disturbed even me! If I was looking at my handwriting as if it were penned by someone else, I'd think I was a psychopath. If one realizes this, does that imply that they're totally sane?


Check out the book anyway----still available on Amazon and available on I-Universe in paperback and E-book.


Jeff said...

I watched Carmona pitch... he was all over the place... never looked comfortable... the benefactor of poor weather and timely hitting from his teammates.

And the Sox didn't capitalize as they should have.

She-Fan said...

What's wrong with your handwriting? If it's better than the average doctor's, you're just fine.

theBrooklynTrolleyBlogger said...

Tom Seaver also said there are 5 outs per game a pitcher has to get in order to win. I digress. It's a great read by you. Maine is another cat who's in for a lot of trouble if his fastball doesn't get above 88 mph. The fastball is a dying art being overtaken by the "miss-able pitch in a fastball motion." Everything works off the fastball. The curveball is almost extinct. The Neo-thinkers have everyone convinced changing speed and location are outdated or no longer good enough. Koufax had 6 types of fastballs; high, low, inside, outside, high and tight and the one right over the plate no one could hit anyway..Marichal, three pitches he threw three different ways. Where's Rube Walker? He'll teach em.