Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Strikeouts are Good
I assure you that strikeouts are, in fact, essential. One might link the struggles of a certain lefty back to his complete inability to strike people out.
Poor Brett Cecil notched 3 strikeouts in both his troubled & belabored 5 inning outings this year. He looks very ungood on the mound, grinding his way to 15 outs amid a hail of line drives and befuddled looks.
Why might this be? What is killing Cecil early this season? The lack of velocity certainly doesn't help but allow me to focus on his changeup. The serendipitous pitch that suddenly allowed Cecil to retire right handed batters and keyed his strong 2010.
In a mere two outings, right handed batters are bashing Cecil around pretty good. Not that we should expect a left-hander with less-than electric stuff pitching in his first April to run over glove-sided batters, but the results are not pretty.
As we saw at times last year, when guys like Cecil (and to a lesser extent Ricky Romero) struggle, it tends to be the changeup that lets them down. Either the offspeed offerings get pounded up in the zone or hitters stay patient with pitches off the plate, designed to elicit swings-and-misses. The bi-product of the latter is more fastballs from guys better served going with junk, the former simply results in line drives that don't get caught.
So I looked at what's become of Cecil's changeups this season compared to last and where in the zone he's putting them. These figures are versus right-handed pitching only. Click to enlarge, pitch f/x data courtesy of Joe Lefkowitz.
I'm mildly surprised to see the swinging strikes so similar, even in a tiny 10 inning sample. The only thing that stands out is gains made in the "in play, tears" section. The dreaded "wild in the zone?" Say it ain't so!
That is pretty much what "wild in the zone" looks like. Lots of pitches in hittable places. Too many thigh-high pitches in the middle of the plate. Again, troubling.
It don't mean to suggest Brett Cecil is a lost cause - he certainly is not. His swing-and-miss changeup makes him a viable starter for any team, let alone this rebuilding unit. I don't know if it is confidence or mechanics but if Brett Cecil cannot command this vital pitch, he's back to being a man without a real weapon against right handed pitching.
Picking 10 early season innings to hold up as proof of deep flaws is not my intention: I'm simply looking for what's gone wrong so far. For his and all our sake, let's hope it's something a few minor adjustments can rectify.
A.P. Photo courtesy of Daylife, pitch f/x stuffs from Joe as mentioned.