Monday, August 01, 2005

Pitching In

Because many of us grew up playing ball, and everyone here watches the Red Sox as a near-religious experience, we all believe we know at least as much as the manager, pitching coach, and definitely the third base coach. We don't. However, I know enough to share a few thoughts.

Orioles pitching coach Ray Miller summarizes pitching thusly:

1) Throw strikes
2) Change speeds
3) Work fast

ESPN gives detailed breakdowns of hitter performance by count. Obviously, hitters who work behind in the count seldom are good hitters. Hall-of-Famer Wade Boggs was a rare exception. Strike one gives the pitcher a tremendous advantage.

"Hitting is timing. Pitching is disrupting timing." Pitchers without great 'stuff' can still get hitters out. Randy Jones of the seventies Padres, Doug Jones, and Mike Boddicker are all great examples of guys who had success without overpowering 'stuff'. Yesterday, the Sox threw Jon Papelbon against crafty veteran Brad Radke. If Radke had Papelbon's stuff, he'd be in the Hall of Fame. If Papelbon learned something from Radke yesterday, maybe he'll have as good a career as Radke.

Defense changes everything. Mark Belanger couldn't hit much better than Alex Cora, and definitely not better than Mark Bellhorn, but Belanger anchored those Orioles infields that seemed to be in the ALCS every year.

It's a refreshing change to see the Sox getting 'power arms' to the majors. That's not saying they can't use the next Greg Maddux, if someday David Pauley or another prospect becomes the second coming of Maddux. However, would you rather bat against Abe Alvarez or Jon Lester? Sure, Catfish Hunter could give you a 'comfortable' 0 for 4, but I'd rather take my chances against him than Nolan Ryan or Sudden Sam McDowell.

Good old fashioned country hardball has a lot to say for it. Alan Embree had velocity but limited movement. It looks like both Manny Delcarmen and Papelbon both have velocity and movement. If they can learn to harness their stuff, and get some breaking balls mixed in, that would make Theo Epstein's life a lot easier during the remainder of the season and beyond.

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