Maybe try a four seamer?
To read the postgame comments of the Mariners after another miserable outing from Jeff Weaver last night, the guy is the second coming of Derek Lowe. Take a look at some of these quotes, courtesy of Geoff Baker:
“I’ve had success throwing my slider to him,” Weaver said. “I figured that, after throwing some sinkers to get ahead, he may have changed his approach to look for that sinker. But he never changed. He sat on the slider each and every time and hit them good.”
“This was a little bit more frustrating than the first time,” Weaver said. “I felt that I was out there with some good stuff, started getting some ground balls I was looking for. I wasn’t falling behind, I was getting ahead of hitters.
And there’s this one from the P-I.
“I was able to get ahead in the count most of the time and I went back to my sinker to get a lot of ground balls,” Weaver said.
So, Weaver threw a bunch of two-seam fastballs yesterday that he thought qualified as “good stuff”, he was trying to induce ground balls, and he just made a mistake by throwing Torii Hunter a slider that ruined his outing. The stats back up part of his premise – he got 14 groundballs compared to 6 flyballs and 4 line drives, so he posted a 58% GB rate for the game. You know the last time he got 14 groundballs in one game? September 27, 2005. He did it twice in ’05, also pulling the trick on opening day that year. Before that, he did it on September 18th, 2002 and July 27th, 2002.
And that’s it. Last night was the fifth time in the last five years that Weaver has gotten that many groundballs in one start.
So, despite what you hear, Jeff Weaver has not been a groundball pitcher throughout his career. His GB%, by season, since 2002: 44%, 39.9%, 40%, 40.7%, and 39.7%. The league average GB% is 43%. Jeff Weaver has a four year track record of getting less groundballs than the average pitcher. If he’s decided to turn himself into a sinkerballer, this is a new development.
And it’s not going to work. There’s a difference between throwing a worm-burner inducing two-seam fastball of the type that Derek Lowe, Brandon Webb, Chien-Ming Wang, Roy Halladay, and Tim Hudson throw, getting good velocity and movement on a pitch that is often in the 90-93 range, and having Jeff Weaver throw 85-88 MPH meatballs over the heart of the plate hoping to induce contact.
Just because you can put a finger on two seams and throw a pitch does not make you a sinkerballer, Jeff. You’re not going to survive in the major leagues throwing 85-88. Your pitches don’t have enough movement and you don’t have the kind of command or mound presence to know how to live off below average stuff. See all those balls being ripped to the wall in your first two starts? That’s what happens when you throw a sinker that doesn’t have enough velocity to get under the hitter’s bat. Those aren’t fluke hits – you’re getting torched because the pitch isn’t major league quality.
You have a four seam fastball – we all saw it in the World Series when you struck out 14 guys in 13 innings in the games that got you this $8 million paycheck. You can throw 90-93 and locate it well enough to get it past people occassionally.
Try it. It worked well enough for you to have a couple decent years as a flyball, four-seam guy back in 2004 and 2005. This whole reinvent yourself with the two-seam fastball experiment? It didn’t work in spring training, and it’s time to chuck it out the window.
You’re Jeff Weaver, and you’re not a groundball pitcher. Try not to suck your way out of the major leagues trying to prove that you are.