Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Drew Pomeranz, or Greg Maddux?

I'm not a major league pitcher. That should be pretty clear. I don't have a deep understanding of pitching nuances. So, I don't feel too bad about being a little confused.

I've always said that dominance from a power pitcher was easy to recognize. I knew when Pedro was having a good game. (That was easy, if he was on the mound he was having a good game.) You could tell when Josh Beckett was on fire. You know that Chris Sale is as dominant as they come. I can tell that Craig Kimbrel is on a roll. Those are easy. You watch the batter look completely overmatched. You see them flail about wildly. You see them walk back to the dugout dejectedly. You don't have to understand baseball to see how good they are.

It's different with the "pitch to contact" dominance. I've always said that I didn't realize that Derek Lowe had a no-hitter going until around the sixth inning. It's hard to pick up dominance from a series of ground balls to third. Or Koji. How was he dominating by inducing all those popups? Or Greg Maddux?

I understand the concept. If you throw the ball right down the middle, the hitters will hit it a long way. If you paint the corners, and keep them off balance, they'll still hit the ball, but it will be a weak grounder or soft pop-up. 

But, then, what do you do with Drew Pomeranz?

He had a game last night that I wouldn't call dominating. After all, he threw 120 pitches in 5 innings. But, he only gave up the one earned run. He struck out seven, and walked two. A pretty good line, actually. But, 120 pitches in five innings??

He threw a lot a pitches. He had a lot of long at-bat, which is why he had so few walks. So, the batters were fouling the ball off a lot. Which means, he was pitching to contact...but not enough contact?

Where is that middle ground? Does he need to throw the ball more towards the middle so the batters can hit it into fair territory? Does he actually need to be less effective? Does he need to put the ball closer to the plate? Is it fooling batters too much?

Because, like I said, he wasn't exactly wild. His strike percentage was better than Joe Kelly's. About the same a Craig Kimbrel. He was just throwing a lot of strikes. A lot of pitches.

So how does he find that line? Seven strikeouts is actually damn good for five innings. So, it's not like that's a problem. It's the other pitches. The ones that are too good to hit fair but not good enough to swing and miss. How does he fix that? How does he get them to ground out on the third pitch instead of the thirteenth? Does he need a better "out" pitch so that he's striking out more than 12.6 batters per nine innings? That seems like a lot to ask. Would a better out pitch get him to that point sooner? Do we want him striking out more batters than that? I don't know what the answer is.

So I really hope he does.

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