Tuesday, March 16, 2010

David Purcey: Closer, LOOGY, or Swingman?

The topic du jour around the Jays was ZOMG! David Purcey's a reliever! He trimmed the fat of his pitching arsenal, we're told. The results even mustered a compliment or two out of The Manager, who even managed to get Purcey's name right.

Coupling Purcey's 'pen rebirth with Jesse Carlson's balky knee creates even more havoc in the crowded bullpen picture. On the radio tonight, Wilner all but handed an Opening Day spot to Purcey. Meaning Accardo, Roenicke, the guy with the Zs in his name, are all fighting for a solitary spot in the bullpen as well as fighting to avoid the ignominy of telling Casey Janssen that he needs to pack his shit and go.

What role will Purcey fill in this bullpen? What role could he fill given the change? With Downs, Frasor and Kevin "The Please Don't Hurt Us MLBPA UFA Signing*" Gregg fighting it out for saves, will Purcey just mop up or might he face some high leverage situations? Might he find his way pack to the rotation one day or is he doomed to a life of journeymannery and service time groveling?

It's tough to base too much on David Purcey's 2009 season, as it was God-awful. Purcey, coming off a great spring, pitched like so many bags of so many asses and the team promptly gave up on him. He walked so many, sweats so much, and generally looked out of place the entire time (more on this in a minute.)

Before I dig too far into his split stats to decide if he'll ever get a right-handed batter out again in his life, let's look at the quality of his secondary pitches. Are the Jays right to ditch two of them?

WhiffOOZ (called balls)ContactBABIP
Curveball8.33% 47%20.80%0.333
Change Up4.08%59%14.30%0.429
Slider18.60%39%6.2%!!! 0.429

I think Papi Walton and I are going to get along just fine. Ditching the two ineffective pitches could give Purcey a new lease on life, though it might spell the end of his days toeing a pristine rubber. Two pitch starters don't have the longest shelf life.

The change up was a pitch Purcey used almost exclusively against right-handers to pretty poor results. Trying to keep batters from sitting on your fastball is a good thing, but you're going to need to throw strikes with that change at least some of the time.

Realistically, I could write 700 more words on what David Purcey did/does against right-handed pitching to justify his place on the team, but it really isn't that complicated: he needs to throw strikes. He can't throw strikes with the curveball or the change, so he's ditching them.

If B.J. Ryan can ride a deceptive windup and two solid pitches to a huge contract and one of the better seasons by a reliever in Blue Jays history, David Purcey can become an effective high-leverage reliever. As uncomfortable as I am saying it, make up really makes a difference for guys like these.

From what I've seen, David Purcey pitches scared and can't wait to come out of games. His furtive glances into the dugout are many, his gutted out innings are few. Maybe he needs a change of scenery, as they say. A wake up call demanding he stay focused with every pitch, ensuring he makes the most out of his abundant physical gifts.

So can he close, or be the high-leverage guy if that's how you get down? I think so. Purcey's strikeout numbers are strong and he doesn't give up too many home runs. The walks are what kill him, doubly so out of the bullpen. A refined repertoire and a renewed outlook could make David Purcey a completely new pitcher.

* - it isn't catchy but I hope it sticks! PDHUMTU!!!1!

Reuters Photo? Guess. Pitch F/X data? Joe Lefkowitz!


  1. I'm intrigued. In a season such as this, let's see what he can do out the pen. Why the fuck not? But the leash will certainly be short. When you walk that many guys, and sweat so profusely, I guess it has to be. And I'm all over "PDHUMTU!!!1!"

  2. "From what I've seen, David Purcey pitches scared and can't wait to come out of games. His furtive glances into the dugout are many, his gutted out innings are few. Maybe he needs a change of scenery, as they say. A wake up call demanding he stay focused with every pitch, ensuring he makes the most out of his abundant physical gifts."

    Don't forget that Purcey has ADD, so he's always struggling with his concentration.
    Hey, maybe that explains the sweating too! I hope not, because profuse sweating = funny.

  3. Purcey in the 'pen? I guess they should give it a shot and see how it works out. Hopefully he can keep his BB/9 down, but only time will tell.

  4. A number of ADHD sufferers have had more success in the bullpen rather than starting since it requires shorter bursts of concentration. I would find the period in between innings where I'm pitching would be where I lose all my concentration, so I had to imagine that by going one adrenaline-charged inning at a time David would be able to circumvent a lot of his problems.

  5. Plus, if Dirk Hayhurst makes it back to the bullpen this year, we'll have the best ADD combo in the American League.

  6. I think you're right about Purcey being exactly the kind of guy whom we'd praise AA for acquiring. I don't think it's quite on the level of a guy like Brandon Morrow as he's a less recent draft pick, doesn't have Morrow's stuff, and wasn't as highly touted when selected. Furthermore, Morrow (for all of his struggles to this point), has pitched better in the big leagues than David Purcey.

    As for Purcey's ADD...

    As a person with severe ADD I can understand how being a relief pitcher might be a better use of a pitcher with the disorder. If you're doing something that requires a great deal of concentration like pitching in the major leagues then generally you tend to go into a period of "hyper focus" which means that your concentration level tends to be even higher than that of most people for a brief period. It generally allows you to shut out absolutely everything else for a short duration. A giant seagull landing in centerfield and carrying Vernon Wells high up into the bleachers wouldn't break your concentration unless it were in your line of sight. I'm exaggerating, but I think you catch my drift.

    The downside is that any sort of extended break tends to shatter it and it's hard to get it back once you start focusing on something else. As a big league pitcher it might be literally anything: the smell of the pine tar on somebody's bat in the dugout, the pattern of the stitching on your jersey... anything. I know that this must all sound crazy to people without ADD. Part of the issue is that most of us work really hard to disguise just how fragile our attention spans are and develop coping mechanisms to make it more manageable in our day to day lives. They work to an extent and medication can help, but a lot of the meds have side effects which aren't worth it to everyone.

    I like to compare ADD with lactose intolerance in the sense that anybody, were they to drink six litres of milk, would become sick and throw it up. The difference is that for a person with lactose intolerance a glass is all it would take to make them sick to their stomach. With ADD, distractability and focus are as much of an issue as that single glass of milk. Everyone is distractable, it's just a question of degrees.

  7. As a total aside, Nick, that's the best description for ADD I've ever seen (as someone who doesn't have it and never quite grasped what exactly it is)

  8. Thanks, Anon 5:12. That took me about half an hour to type out because the couple living below me is listening to some very bass-heavy dance music. LOL.

    Personally I think that David's disorder may make him more useful as a relief pitcher who comes into games with a clean slate (i.e. no runners on base, nothing to distract him). If I'm right about this then he'd be ideally suited to a role where he gets used as the first man out of the pen after a good game by the starting pitcher or for possibly for the closer's role. Think about it. Ninth inning, a 1-3 run lead and you need to get three guys. What could be more simple and easier to focus on that that? It would also allow the team to deploy guys like Downs and Frasor in higher-leverage roles.

  9. Wow Nick, awesome comment. Thanks for the insight!

  10. I got the feeling that Walton's move to limit Purcey to two pitches was temporary - just a technique to get the guy to get back on track. When the interviewer asks him about Purcey in the bullpen Walton doesn't want to outright disagree with Cito - but he does say he still thinks of him as a starter.

  11. I think you might be right. I think the curveball might be history forever though, maybe the change/two seamer can lead him to victory.

  12. Three thoughts:

    1) If I could have those six litres of milk with a couple dozen doughnuts, I'd be okay.

    2) Where can we find this giant seagul?

    3) I remember they limited McGowan to one of the curve or slider a few offseasons back, and he broke out with both of them working that year.

  13. 1) I KNEW that donuts had magical powers. My mom totally lied.

    2) Waiting for David Winfield to return to the ballpark. He is preparing for his revenge. If he gets hungry then Vernon Wells might make a good snack though.

    3) Hmmm... interesting. Perhaps he saw the coaching staff's direction as a challenge and wanted to prove himself.

  14. I read today that he will re master the change next and then the 2 seamer, assuming his 4 seam/slider combo become very effective. Wouldn't it be great to get use out of Purcey and McGowan in the same season, 6 months after we thought both were done with this organization?


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