Friday, April 20, 2007

Ace In A Hole

Nobody wants to read my ramblings from a game we lost about 18 hours ago, so check out the pros instead.

The topic of most of those, as you'd expect, is John Patterson. He had another ineffective outing, his 14th of the season, and it's getting to the point where alarm bells are buzzing all over.

Patterson attributes much of his problems to a lack of arm strength, which is certainly a very reasonable excuse. Much has been made of his lack of velocity, which is worrisome to a degree. But, really, that doesn't concern me much.

What's killed Patterson isn't his velocity, but a lack of command of his pitches. He can't throw the fastball to spots, just areas. His curveball is big and sloppy, not the tight slurvy pitch that he could aim over and over at the lower corners of the plate. And his slider? Yeesh. When he's thrown it, it's been more of a mediocre cut fastball. Are those problems of velocity? Nope. Are those problems of a dead arm? Perhaps. They're certainly reasonable problems for a pitcher who hasn't thrown a helluva lot since September '05.

I keep asking if it's rust, or if it's something physical. Patterson, for the first time, is attributing some of it to the physical -- a dead arm -- instead of the cold weather and mechanics uses he's trumpeted out after his last few disasters. Is there more there?

OMG has a thoughtful post looking at the evolution of perception with Patterson. He argues that lots of people are down on Patterson because we all had high expectations, and that because we don't really have an excuse for why he's sucking chrome, it's shading our perception of him even more. It's an interesting notion.

But I wonder if some of the same is going on with Patterson himself. He's always been an emotional guy, an OCD-type who seems like he needs everything in exactly the same order and place, otherwise he gets distracted. Think back to those opening weeks of '05 when he was the most frequent critic of the RFK mound, strutting around and scratching at the dirt with his feet like a chicken outside his coop.

If he's that picky about how the mound feels on his sensitive little feet, how's he going to react when his arm -- on which he's already had Tommy John surgery -- doesn't feel 100%?

He's pitching like someone who doesn't trust his stuff. Yesterday, everything early was down, down, down, like he was nibbling, almost afraid of the batters. That's not the Patterson from '05, who would smoke the fastball up high in the zone with some zip, before changing the plane and dropping the curve at the knees.

Of course, without a curveball, and without a zippy fastball, he is a different pitcher. The question is, will he come back, or was that jut a flash in the pan?

If that fastball and curve don't come back, he's going to have to adapt. Hundreds of pitchers have succeeded without mid-90s fastballs. He's going to have to focus on command and timing, and refining that change-up he's supposedly been working on for three years would go a long way towards helping him.

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