Saturday, April 24, 2010

Game 17; and hope?

Not a great night at the ballpark last night. For the most part the rain held off, but that wasn't necessarily good news for the Reds. Arroyo looked great . . . in the first inning. He lost it in the second, giving up four runs. He was gone by the time Adrian Gonzalez hit a grand slam in fourth off of Micha Owings (who in the sixth flied out to left on a ball so high I was sure it would bring rain). Arroyo was charged with eight runs.

Mostly because of the weather and the 10-0 score, our group wanted to leave early. But Kevin Correia had a no-hitter through five so we couldn't leave. Thankfully, Ryan Hanigan (who looks good this year) led off the sixth with a solid double in the gap. That left us free to go, and to contemplate where the Reds are heading. Right now, they're tied for next to last with the Cubs at 7-10, a half game ahead of the Astros, and three and a half behind the Cards. Still too early to give up, but if both Harang and Arroyo don't have it, the Reds are in for a long season.

So is there hope? Here is some interesting stuff from Will Carrol at Baseball Prospectus, who saw the Cuban Missle pitch last night in Indianapolis. This is from his Under The Knife column regarding baseball injuries.

Aroldis Chapman warms up on an overcast Indianapolis evening.

I finally got the chance to see Chapman live last night in Indianapolis, and he didn't disappoint. Forgive me if I sound like a scout (reminder: I am not a scout), but he's a smooth lefty with a live arm, showing two plus pitches and the makings of two more. The Reds' prospect with Triple-A Louisville throws a very good fastball that lives at 92-94 mph and can touch 100 when he gets angry. He has a slider with two-plane movement, enough to buckle the knees of a good hitter. That good hitter, Pedro Alvarez, saw three pitches in his second at-bat. First was a 93-mph fastball that tailed back in over the outside of the plate. The fastball, when below 95, has a very late tailing action that comes back in to lefties. The second pitch was an 84-mph slider that had Alvarez, the Pirates' top prospect who is playing for Indianapolis, leaning back, but the sharp break pulled it over the inner half. He finished Alvarez off with a hard 99-mph pitch right over the black on the inside of the plate, handcuffing Alvarez.

But he's not perfect. The fastball really flattens out when he throws it faster than 95. Now, at that speed, a lot of guys won't be able to catch up, especially after having their eyes shifted by the slider, so it's not that big a deal yet. His second fastball—which acted at times like a cutter—didn't seem to have much control and had much earlier movement. When he got it over the plate, it was pretty fat. His changeup is a work in progress, at best. His entire delivery changes, tipping the pitch, and he tends to put it in the dirt. He does have a tendency to miss low, only working up in the zone with his good heat. He also has a tendency to "fly open," losing the timing between foot strike and ball release, pushing the ball up but usually well into the lefty batter's box.

There are also some oddities. Chapman has a devastating pickoff move. Jose Tabata got on with a walk, but still has no idea what happened once he was at first. Chapman's delivery is slow, an uncorking that has a lot of hip turn on top of a drop-and-drive motion that recalls parts of Orlando Hernandez's delivery. While Chapman pitches over the top, that hard drop with his back leg doesn't give much downward plane to his pitches. He also has one physical oddity that I haven't heard mentioned before, in his shoulders. Many pitchers have an imbalance in their shoulders, with their pitching shoulder larger than their glove-side shoulder. Chapman is the opposite and I couldn't get any explanation for why that might occur. Chapman is a natural lefty and not a weight room guy. It's possible this is some sort of quirk of the uniform, but I watched him closely and it does appear that there's a difference. Were this on the throwing side, it would suggest sick scapula, but again, it's on the glove side.

Chapman's stuff is very good, but he's inefficient and seems to get frustrated on the mound. At times, he "pitches angry," overthrowing, adding more leg drive and stride length, and giving off some bad mojo. If he can harness this, the 100-mph heat will keep that frustration from growing, but I do wonder how he'll adjust to those that can hit that kind of pitch. (There aren't many of them.) He doesn't have the polish of the Rays' David Price, someone I also saw pitch from the same mound a couple years back. His fastball is better that Price's and his slider can be, but Price had more of an understanding of pitching and was more consistent and controlled on the mound. The fastball did not appear to be nearly as good as that of the Rangers' Neftali Feliz. It is coming lefty, but Feliz keeps its movement, even at the higher velocities. We'll see if Chapman's results can approximate that of those two elite pitchers. Let's just hope this is the last time Chapman appears in this column.

No comments: