Feierabend, Take One

Dave · May 30, 2007 at 8:41 am · Filed Under Mariners 

I posted a brief review of my feelings on Ryan Feierabend’s performance in the game thread last night, but I figured I should put up something with a little more detail today, for those who didn’t catch his season debut.

The fastball was consistently 86-90, all of the four seam variety, and usually up in the zone. It’s easy to see why he’s a predominantly flyball pitcher, as he lived above the belt with the fastball. From his arm slot, he got a decent amount of run in on right-handed pitchers, though the mistake to Shea Hillenbrand showed what will happen if his location isn’t good.

He threw two offspeed pitches – a slow, slurvy curveball that came in at 76-78 with little downward break and generally floated into the strike zone. It had a good amount of left to right break, and he generally tried to locate it on the inside corner to right-handers. It actually got a decent amount of called strikes as he threw it in a couple of fastball counts and caught hitters off guard, but the pitch itself was basically a meatball. Without any real biting movement, the ball stayed on the same plane that it was on when it left his hand, making it an easy target for hitters. He also left it up in the zone far too frequently. As the scouting report on him gets around the league, he’s going to have to throw that thing less, or get better downward movement on it, because the curveball he threw last night wasn’t a major league pitch.

His change-up, on the other hand, was terrific. He consistently got it down in the strike zone at 77-79 MPH, keeping a consistent arm speed with his fastball and adding to the deception. The pitch showed good fade away from right-handed hitters at times, and he commanded it better than either his fastball or curve. It was clearly his best pitch, and the only thing he threw that could be considered an out pitch.

His pickoff move came in with the billing of being the best in the organization, and it didn’t take long for him to confirm that. He comes very close to driving his front foot towards the plate before the step over, but he’s mastered the art of getting as close to a balk as possible without violating the rule. It’s a great pickoff move, similar to Andy Pettitte’s, and is one of the best in baseball.

Overall, Feierabend did a good job attacking the strike zone with his pitches and not throwing in a predictable pattern. The fastball is a bit below average, but the change-up is well above average, and he should be able to mix those two pitches enough to keep hitters off balance when he’s ahead in the count. The problem will come when he falls behind hitters, however. He doesn’t have a fastball he can throw by hitters and the breaking ball he showed last night needs an awful lot of work.

Feierabend is going to rely heavily on commanding the strike zone early in counts to get into good pitcher’s counts, where his change-up and fastball will be enough to put hitters away. He’s going to run into trouble when he doesn’t start out strike one, because he doesn’t have the stuff to put away a hitter who is able to load up for a fastball in a particular count.

If Feierabend can improve the breaking ball or master the command of his change-up to where he feels confident throwing it for strikes in any count, he’s got the makings of a solid #5 starter, a guy who is a perfect fit for Safeco with his flyball tendencies and left-handedness. On days where he doesn’t have the feel for his change-up, however, he could get pounded early and often, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a few disaster starts along the way.

In an ideal world, he could hang out in Tacoma this year, working on improving the curveball and mastering his command of the change-up, but the Mariners need competent starting pitchers, and Feierabend showed enough stuff and command last night to constitute an upgrade over Jeff Weaver and Horacio Ramirez. The M’s are going to want to get a return on their significant offseason investments in that pair, but if they’re more concerned with winning games than salvaging some value out of guys they would have been better off never acquiring, then they should leave Feierabend in the rotation. Right now, he looks like the 5th best major league starting pitcher in the organization, and in a pennant race, the team can’t afford to have that guy not pitching every five days.


72 Responses to “Feierabend, Take One”

  1. timc on May 30th, 2007 12:17 pm

    Graham: Fair enough – I can’t possibly complain when I’m too busy/lazy/unable to add a chapter on baseball to my thesis/etc. to do the work myself. Just thought it might be worth thinking aloud about it to see what ideas came up.

  2. Nuss on May 30th, 2007 12:18 pm

    Dave —

    “Poor man’s” = similar repertoire, similar approach, less talent. That’s kind of the definition of it.

    And I know Moyer is unique in that he makes up for a lack of velocity with perhaps the most remarkable control this generation has seen, but again, it’s the approach and repertoire that I’m talking about: Moyer uses his curve as little more than a show-me pitch to keep hitters off balance. He also uses his fastball effectively inside while relying on his best pitch, the change-up.

    Is Feierabend like Moyer? On the surface, it’s clearly a silly comparison. But I think he could be successful with a similar approach, throwing a higher percentage of change-ups than what you might normally find a pitcher doing. That’s where I think he really deviates from the Washburn comparison (which I think is solid in most respects) — Washburn almost exclusively uses a fastball because he’s never in his life thrown a change-up like the ones Feierabend threw last night. I think he’s got something special with that pitch.

    By the way, as happy as I was with his performance, is anyone else disturbed by the fact that this guy is roundly considered a top five prospect in our system? Now THAT’S scary.

  3. Dave on May 30th, 2007 12:25 pm

    You’d have to go down to impoverished homeless guy’s Cole Hamels before I’d buy the analogy.

  4. Nuss on May 30th, 2007 12:35 pm

    LOL. Duly noted.

  5. Chris Miller on May 30th, 2007 12:42 pm

    #33, Dave, I think you’re right, I’ve always assumed that to be true, flyball pitchers would have a higher game to game variance than groundball pitchers (sould be able verify this using fangraphs game logs)

    I’ve played with the numbers before, and w/ a little HR luck (or a big park) and/or some good defense a Flyball pitcher w/ the same BB and K rates can definately look better than a Groundball pitcher with the same peripherals, but like you said, when regression occurs, watch out.

    Based on the following: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/batted-ball-splits/, Flyball pitchers give up ~.02 less runs per Ball In Play than groundball pitchers, but give up more runs per batted ball (~0.15).

    Also, based on that, Flyball pitchers give up ~.16 runs per (non-hr) hit more so yeah, every defensive play above average will make them look that much better.

    RE: Hamels, if you compare anyones change-up to his, is silly. If you have MLB.tv, watch a couple starts of his, pay close attention to where his arms, hands, and legs end up, you CANNOT tell the diference. If you watch the condensed games and see the fastball and the change played in sequence, you’d think it was the same pitch.

  6. Chris Miller on May 30th, 2007 12:44 pm

    Oh, and don’t forget the control, and that it has some good break on it.

  7. Chris Miller on May 30th, 2007 12:47 pm

    Groundball pitchers give up less IF nd More LD relative to flyball pitchers. See (http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/the-truth-about-the-grounder/, only talks about LD but a similar negative correlaiton exists for IF/F). So if a flyball pitcher is reducing LD, increasing IF, avoiding HR, and/or getting good D in the outfield, a very mediocre pitcher can look great. For an example, see Ryan Franklin’s 2003.

  8. Steve Nelson on May 30th, 2007 12:48 pm

    #49: Graham – that’s why I qualified it with “if the data were available …”. Unless the splits were already there for download, OK. But trying to create them from raw data – blechhhhhhh.

  9. Chris Miller on May 30th, 2007 12:53 pm

    Huh, actually taking a quick look at 03 Franklin, I guess it was almost all defense. The .249 babip is the only standout peripheral (and a relatively high LOB%). So there you go.

  10. Graham on May 30th, 2007 1:03 pm

    Isn’t the BIP data from ’03 fairly unreliable, though, Chris?

  11. Chris Miller on May 30th, 2007 1:06 pm

    For retrosheet it is, 2000-2003 is missing all kinds of data. I don’t know about the BIS data, I always assumed it was OK. Fangraphs uses the BIS data.

  12. coasty141 on May 30th, 2007 1:18 pm

    Does every pitcher with a 4 seam fastball like Washburn for Feierabend at least expirement with a two seam fastball at some point in their career?

  13. Dave on May 30th, 2007 1:19 pm

    Every pitcher in baseball throws a four seam fastball. It’s the standard pitch you’re taught as a kid.

    Probably less than half of major league starters throw a two seamer, and very few relievers do.

  14. Chris Miller on May 30th, 2007 1:22 pm

    #62, I’d say yes. The problem is if they don’t get tight enough break it’s just a slower fastball with a little arc to it. If they can get the tight break, they have to be able to control it. Also the mechanics play a huge role in it, some guys throw in a way more conducive to throwing 4-seamer and other to throwing 2-seamers. If you tend to throw up in the zone a lot, you’ll probably have to throw 4-seamers a lot.

  15. Chris Miller on May 30th, 2007 1:23 pm

    What I meant to get at is, there’s no point in throwing it if it’s not a good pitch.

  16. Tom on May 30th, 2007 4:26 pm

    I think the fact that he doesn’t give up at least 4 runs in the first inning already makes him better than Weaver and HoRam. It’s just too bad our 3-5 starters suck and we traded Soriano, because think about it.

    What if Morrow, Baek, and Frierabend had a little more time to polish themselves in the minors as starters? Especially if they are basically major league ready to begin with.

    It’s sad that the Mariners put themselves in a position where they had to win THIS YEAR for Ichiro. But hey, quite honestly, the 2008 version of the Mariners (especially with Hargrove and/or Bavasi likely gone and if we can get rid of some of those horrible Bavasi free agent contracts) looks pretty interesting if I do say so myself. And it would look very, very promising if Ichiro could see that we are somewhat close to becoming contenders again and find it in him to re-sign with us.

  17. Gomez on May 30th, 2007 4:50 pm

    14. 19. 47. 66. Can we go a few comments without referencing the Soriano trade? It was an awful trade from an org that’s made several awful trades, and cost us a good reliever while netting us a bad starter. Great. It happened and we can’t undo it, okay? Not that I don’t agree it was mind blowingly stupid, but the repeated reference to it in so many threads is getting on my nerves. Let’s talk about the present. In fact, this entry’s about Ryan Feierabend and I have a novel idea: let’s talk about him!

    I didn’t get a chance to watch the game, so, those who did, I’m curious: how hard was he getting hit? Were the flyballs of the lazy pop-up to left variety or of the ‘MAN he smoked that’ variety? Were the hitters getting wood despite Ryan mixing his stuff up or were there more awkward, missed swings?

    Also, Dave, I’m wondering what you think will happen with Feierabend assuming Weaver and HoRam have no setbacks in their ‘rehab’ and the issue of whether to bring them back or toss them overboard arises. Would the M’s be able to repeat the Pokey Reese scenario of just leaving them on the DL for the duration of the year?

  18. Benno on May 30th, 2007 5:02 pm

    Wouldn’t HoRam be able to be optioned to the minors? There seems to be flexability with is situation after the DL, while Weaver could cause problems, due to his being a veteran who could protest the need to go on a rehab stint.

  19. bhsmarine on May 30th, 2007 5:02 pm

    67- He didn’t get hit any harder then a normal flyball pitcher who has their share or weak fly balls and a few deep ones, I wasn’t sitting there cringing at every contact. Of course Vlad smoked one. Hillenbrands HR wasn’t that deep either, maybe 5-8 rows in to the left field corner above the 330 sign, it would have been caught had it been to left center easily.

  20. bhsmarine on May 30th, 2007 5:04 pm

    67- The change up made some people look foolish at times, especially Kendrick a couple times.

  21. gwangung on May 30th, 2007 6:21 pm

    Well, he’s young, yet….I think there’s a chance at improvement…

  22. Dylan on May 30th, 2007 6:46 pm


    You took the words right out of my mouth. I probably would have said it earlier if I hadn’t been too lazy to log in at work 🙂

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