Bedard And Impressive Performances

Dave · March 1, 2011 at 8:32 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I’m a few days late to this party, but as you probably know by now, Erik Bedard had what he called “the best spring training outing of his life” on Sunday. And while that sentence is kind of funny on the surface, it’s hard to argue with his enthusiasm – he threw nine pitches, eight of them strikes, and got two strikeouts along a first pitch ground out. Given that he’s basically spent the last 20 months rehabbing, you wouldn’t expect him to be laser sharp in his first outing. But, there he was, throwing fastballs and curveballs that Pitch F/x said were consistent with his pre-surgery velocities. Now, it’s just one inning in a game that didn’t even count in the Cactus League standings, but it’s the kind of outing that inspires hope. Every time Bedard throws like that, we remember just how good he could be, and there’s a part of every fan that wants to believe he can be that again. That’s what spring is all about after all, right? Hope?

Well, sure. But we also have to remind ourselves that March is full of the kind of hope that disappoints. Matt Tuiasosopo is the King Of March, annually tearing the cover off the ball in Arizona and convincing the team that he deserves a spot on the opening day roster. Two years ago, Mike Wilson led the Cactus League in home runs and Wakamatsu nearly put him on the team too. Remember the epic Chris Jakubauskas spring, where he forced himself onto the staff out of nowhere with impressive performances left and right?

Now, there’s a difference between just compiling good spring numbers and actually impressive feats of skill, right? Right. We don’t really care that Bedard got two strikeouts on Sunday, but the fact that he was throwing 91 MPH fastballs is something. However, even there, we need to exercise some caution. Pitch F/x data is great, but it can be wonky at times. We know the system in KC reports inflated velocities, and the one in Texas is a tick or two slower than the rest. Is the one in Peoria calibrated correctly? It appears to be giving similar numbers to what we see in other parks during the season for most guys, but are guys really throwing at full strength at this point in spring training? Maybe, but we can’t really be sure sure if the 95-98 that Peoria was reporting for Dan Cortes today is the same 95-98 that Safeco was reporting him at last September. Because we only really have spring training (and Arizona Fall League, but not many elite arms pitch there) data for Peoria’s system, we can’t really vet the numbers as well as we would like.

It doesn’t seem like the data is inaccurate, but it’s at least possible that it’s overstating the pitch velocity (which would be really terrible for Manny Delcarmen, who was already way below his career norms). On Pitch F/x data in spring training stadiums, I’ll just encourage caution and leave it at that.

Bedard’s not the only one who has been opening eyes so far. Johermyn Chavez has opened some eyes with a couple of long home runs and strong throws from the outfield, and given his size, it’s easy to be impressed by the physical specimen. He looks like a monster of a man, and when he crushes a ball into the Arizona sky, it can be easy to get enthused about a potential cleanup hitter on the way to Safeco. However, caution is once again the right path here. Just like with Wilson and Tui, Chavez is an undisciplined hitter who has some fairly easily exploitable flaws, but the pitchers he’s facing now don’t care. They’re not reading scouting reports on how to get him out. They’re not pounding him with breaking balls and mixing locations to keep him off balance. Pitchers are tinkering with things, trying to get the feel for certain pitches, and generally just getting their work in. If they groove a fastball to a big kid who spent last year in A-ball and he hits it a mile, so be it.

When the games count, everything changes, and that’s when flaws become apparent again. Chavez has some ability, certainly, and he might just turn himself into a big league player with time, but don’t get sucked into a big guy launching home runs in Arizona and think that he’s showing off some better skills than he had a year ago. He’s a prospect, and worth keeping an eye on, but he’s not going to help the Mariners this year no matter how many impressive moon shots he launches in March.

With a few baseball notes out of the way, I have a couple of site related things to mention. As you’ve noticed, I simply haven’t been able to maintain my previous pace of writing here this winter, so I’ve reached out to Jon Shields and invited him to join the writing crew here. Jon runs Pro Ball NW and has been around the blogosphere for a few years, so he’s probably a familiar name to many of you. We’re not absorbing PBNW, but Jon is going to do double duty and contribute to both sites going forward. Jay and Marc aren’t going anywhere, but adding Jon to the mix should give the site more consistent content going forward, and I think you’ll enjoy reading his take on the goings on surrounding the organization. I’m happy to have Jon as part of the crew, and look forward to reading his contributions both here and at his home.

Speaking of writing consistency, I’m going to be hit or miss the next few weeks here. I’m flying to Boston on Thursday for Dorkapalooza The Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, where I’ll be through Sunday morning. Next week, the wife and I are spending some time up in New Hampshire on a semi-vacation, and then on the 10th, I fly to Arizona for four days of spring training. I’ll have internet access the whole time, but am not sure how much time I’ll have to bang out long posts. I’ll try to do a chat or two when I have some free time, but they may be fairly spontaneous, so check the blog (or follow me on twitter for notifications – @d_a_cameron) if you want to be involved in some impromptu Q&A sessions. While I’m down in Arizona, I’ll try to get a few interesting things to share, but those might have to wait until I get back – the schedule is pretty crowded while I’m down there.

Thanks for bearing with me this winter. I know we weren’t as active as you guys have gotten used to, but we’re doing our best to make sure the site maintains a premium place for discussion of the organization. We appreciate your patience while we fine-tune things to make it all go as smooth as possible.


10 Responses to “Bedard And Impressive Performances”

  1. IwearMsHats on March 1st, 2011 8:46 pm

    Who is this Dave guy, and why is he writing on USSMariner, the #1 super premium supersonic fun Mariner’s blog?

  2. Spanky on March 1st, 2011 9:56 pm

    Dave…I really think you owe us a refund on at least 50% of our membership fees.

  3. sciacca on March 1st, 2011 10:26 pm

    Thanks for getting another contributor to pick up the slack. Looking forward to reading Jon’s posts and renewed activity here

  4. marc w on March 1st, 2011 11:33 pm

    “Remember the epic Chris Jakubauskas spring, where he forced himself onto the staff out of nowhere with impressive performances left and right? “

    You better believe I remember that.

  5. justinh on March 2nd, 2011 1:08 am

    Quote from scout who watched Bedard, “He hit 91 and to even see a curve ball this early in the spring shows that at least he thinks he is healthy. I will guarantee you one thing, if he pitches 120 innings this year the way he did today, he takes home comeback player of the year. I was very, very impressed.”

    I like what I hear, and agree with DC, I like what I saw on F/x. Since it is a time of hope, if Bedard pitched like this for 2-3 months, it could be pretty interesting. I think in no time in MLB history has there been a higher premium for pitchers due to the lack of availability and we saw what dominant pitching can do last year with San Francisco. I was lucky enough to see the dominance in person for the entire NLCS and World Series, and it get’s you so amped to think about what that will feel like in 2013 in Seattle.

    I’m already a season ticket holder, so I am set, and was able to move into the best seats over the last two season. But the Mariners bear market is over, and it would be a hell of an investment to buy season tickets this year, because we are going to get better every year. It is not liked we mortgaged the future for Cliff Lee, conversely there was just an article written by Morisi how the Phillies, nor many others, think any of the three (Aumont, Ramirex, Gilles). The Phillies had to buy extra chalk this year because it kept disappearing around Gilles. Ok, low blow.

    We are heading in a great direction and I love the fact that this could be a 6-8 year run like the Angels have had. Texas has spent a lot on some veteran guys that could cost them in 2 years, and Anaheim doesn’t have a whole lot of options after taking on Vernon Wells and his ludicrous contract. Plus, outside of Trout, their system has not been what it was supposed to be. Wood, Kotchman, Kendrick, and a few others just haven’t panned out. I see Oakland as the biggest threat in a year or two, with their pitching and solidified hitting, plus the ability to spend more than $40 million per year.

    Anyway, it will be fun, and my top 3 players to watch the year are Joherym Chavez, Richie Poyth, and Kyle Seager. If they can hit in Tennesee this year, we be looking very nice. Especially if Seager can keep improving his defense, like some scouts have said he has, it opens up the door if Ackley playing 2B doesn’t work out. I didn’t have Franklin there, because regardless of what people think or say, he won’t be ready to play SS until Sept 2012 at the earliest.


  6. maqman on March 2nd, 2011 1:58 am

    Dave you picked a good writer to add content to USSM, Jon Shields is that and then some. I’ve been following him and Conor Dowley at Pro Ball NW for some time and they know whereof they speak. Congratulations on helping to make USSM more relevant and informative.

  7. Adam B. on March 2nd, 2011 8:48 am

    I’ve always wondered if Bedard is having issues starting, why not try him in relief?

    Seriously, if the man is only going to pitch you ~80 innings a year, why not make them as high leverage as possible?

    I do understand the caveats; a starter is far more valuable then a reliever, the Mariners aren’t exactly bursting with other upside starters and reliever is probably the easiest position on a team to fill, but if a move could improve Bedard’s value (for this team and others) while also potentially keeping his left arm from bursting into flames and falling off, then the team should consider it at some point.

  8. rightwingrick on March 2nd, 2011 9:52 am

    Just to keep Bedard’s 91 MPH in perspective, I was at spring training in Bedard’s first year here, and he hit 98 MPH that spring. I doubt it, but that’s what it read. So right now, he’s throwing 7 MPH slower than then, as a relative measure. It’s early. Let’s see what develops.

  9. dnc on March 2nd, 2011 10:48 am

    Bedard’s never hit anywhere close to 98 in his life. Not saying you didn’t see it read 98, buts surely there was a fluke in the system that day.

  10. MKT on March 2nd, 2011 12:54 pm

    Who is this Dave guy, and why is he writing on USSMariner, the #1 super premium supersonic fun Mariner’s blog?

    I got about 4 LOL’s from that one sentence. The “supersonic” was a nice touch, simultaneously anaphoric and evocative of Seattle sports.

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