Bedard And Impressive Performances
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.