Two Pitchers
August 30, 2006

I really need to get organized.  I take notes on just about every game I watch and after I get enough of them, I sift through and compile what I think are the most useful ones to post on this website.  I thought I had posted something last week after Jered Weaver's start against the Red Sox, but unfortunately it got lost in the shuffle and didn't make it.  Anyway, this is what I wrote on August 27:

"OK, so my prection about Jered Weaver's next start was considerably off.  However, I still think bad times are ahead for him.  Maybe not this year with how lucky he has been, but it won't continue next year.  Let me list why:

1) The Red Sox match-up wasn't exactly a typical Red Sox line-up.  No Varitek, no Manny, no Loretta, no Alex Gonzalez.  In their places were the anemic Doug Mirabelli  (who at this point can be overpowered by some of the 12-year olds at the Little League World Series), the powerless Alex Cora, newly called-up prospect Dustin Pedrioa (hitting .111) and the rather uninspiring Eric Hinske.  In short, other than David Ortiz, who by they way went 2-for-2 with a homer and a walk, it was a punchless and largely on base-averse line-up. 

2) Alfonso Marquez' strikezone was shall we say, generous.  It featured extra territory on both sides of the plate as well as some extra down to about mid-shin.  So he has a huge strikezone to work with.  So huge in fact that Josh Beckett, he of the nine-walk outing his previous start, threw an economical 62 pitches through his first six innings with no walks.  Even with all these things working in his favor, it still took Weaver 107 pitches to get through 6 innings.  There was a whole lot of fouling going on, meaning it took him a while to put hitters away

3) Weaver's biggest issue in the minors was a slightly elevated high home run rate.   In the bigs however, he's allowed just 4 big flies in a little more than 80 innings.  Has he suddenly become a groundball machine?  No,quite the opposite as a matter of fact.  His G/F rate is a Milton-ly 0.65.  The usual conversion rate for flyballs to homers is about one homer for every 10 flyballs.  Weaver has allowed more than 100 flyballs so far, yet only 4 home runs.  If I was a betting man, I'd say there's a huge correction in his future.

4) His hits allowed rate is considerably lower than it was in the minors.  Usually, it doesn't work that way.

Combining the statistical indicators, which all point to "improbable" when considering his chances to keep this run going, with the number of tells he has in his delivery... I don't know but when the numbers AND the scouting say he's due for a tumble, I tend to steer clear.  I'm not saying he's going to be a terrible pitcher.  I just don't think he'll end up being much if at all better than Joe Blanton rather than Johan Santana."

After last night's bombing at the hands of the Mariners, my thoughts seem both prescient, and because of my timing in posting them, a little too johnny come lately.  Oh well.  I still think the Joe Blanton comparison is appropriate here forward.

Watching AJ Burnett's last start was no fun.  I wonder how much his arm is still bothering him because his follow through looked really sloppy.  Maybe it was the rain but he wasn't finishing his pitches consistently, which led to very little control both in and out of the strikezone.  It also led to him getting behind in counts, losing guys when he was ahead in counts and a few times where he tried to aim his pitches.  That makes a nice recipe for a spanking. 

It's the same issue I see with Fernando Cabrera although Cabrera doesn't have the built-in excuse of recovering from major surgery.  Still, I'm not ready to draw any conclusions from that starts because a) it was pretty sloppy weather to be pitching in, b) Burnett isn't nearly as effective on the road as he is at home (3.86 ERA/1.38 WHIP at home vs 5.17 ERA/1.47 WHIP on the road) and c) he's had his fair share of struggles against Cleveland in his career (7.07 ERA, 2.02 WHIP in 3 starts).  And normally I wouldn't recommend him against the Red Sox (his next probable opponent) either.  But the BoSox might be without David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Wily Mo Pena which leaves, well, not a whole lot. 

So will Burnett's next start tell us a whole lot about what to expect the rest of the way - whether his mid-August rebound (4-0, 26 IP, 3.05 ERA, 18 Ks) was for real or just a flash in the pan?  I think they will.  His next two starts are scheduled to be road starts and a solid showing will be a good sign.  And because both of those teams will lack a lot of plate discipline when they face Burnett - Boston without it's big guns and the Angels are naturally aggressive - that it will give Burnett a chance to pitch to his strengths which is to rear back at let fly, rather than trying to spot all his pitches.  If he doesn't do well, I expect it will be due to lazy mechanics, an old habit of his.  In stressful situations, most people fall back to old habits and my guess - and I must emphasize that this is only a guess - is that if he's still thinking about protecting his elbow he's a) not concentrating on what he's supposed to be doing and b) consciously or subconsciously falling back to the mechanics he used when his elbow wasn't experiencing any discomfort.  Either way, if it's the latter case, it's bad news.  With two good starts, though, I look for a strong finish.