Friday, April 13, 2007

Wildly In Control

After watching Jason Bergmann walk two of the first three batters he faced, after his previous start when he walked the first 27 he faced -- a reverse perfect game -- I was pretty sure that we were seeing his last major league start.

But while I was focused on the result of the pitches, I wasn't focusing on what the pitches themselves were actually doing. But when he got Andruw Jones to swing at a few sharp sliders and curves in the dirt, it should've been a clue. Despite walking two batters, he struck out the side, and the game was on. BBergmann versus Smoltz, and BBergmann won. [insert cliche about how anything can happen]

It's hard to say that BBergmann had more control last night. He really was making Brian Schneider do calisthenics with all the stretching he was doing reaching for the wildly flailing pitches. The difference was the bite on his pitches. For whatever reason, he was feeling it, and his slider, especially, had a real sharp downward zip to it -- just a perfectly tight breaking pitch.

He's always had a decent fastball. He throws it with a little bit of pace, and just enough movement that when he's getting the corners, the batters have a hard time with it. But what's made him so hittable has been the inability to have a complimentary pitch. With his slider darting, he had it last night. Time and time again, the slider was darting down, getting the Braves to swing wildly. There were more than a few of those hilarious looking swings where the batter bends at the waist, scoots his butt away from the plate, and leans forward, weakly flailing the bat at a pitch in the dirt.

The other thing that Bergmann did well was to let the natural movement of his pitches do the work. With as much as his breaking pitches were moving, starting them higher in the zone, and letting the action tumble them below the plate seemed to be effective. He kept his fastball high, mixing up the plane of the pitches. The Braves have been notorious for changing the plane horizontally; Bergmann did the same thing, but vertically.

Very well done. Very surprising! I'll be interested to see if they worked on anything mechanical to get his pitches to have the bite, or if it was just one of those games where everything felt right. I remember Jim Kaat talking about pitching a few years ago, and he said that you go out there 5-7 times a year when everything feels like it's clicking. It's what happens in those 25 other starts that determines whether you're a winner.

The worst part about all this, though, is that Jim Bowden's ego is going to be out of control. It's possible that his riot act to BBergmann was the difference maker. But correlation does not equal causation. I had some California Rolls for lunch yesterday; maybe that's why he did so well?

  • It was nice to see Chad Cordero get into a real meaningful game. It wasn't nice to see Bad Chad. The Braves sure do have his number, don't they?


    • DSH Friday mood: joyful!

      By Blogger MDT, at 4/13/2007 9:20 AM  

    • I was surprised at how many times the braves swung at and missed what would have been ball 4 if they hadn't swung. That's probably a good indicator of how much movement Bergmann was getting - the hitter's didn't know where the ball was going to end up. But neither did Bergmann (as show by Schneider's acrobatics). It worked for Bergmann last night, but didn't inspire a lot of confidence in me. If he can refine his control just a little bit, though, he'll be fine. He definitely showed a lot of "stuff" last night, which was extremely encouraging.


      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/13/2007 11:33 AM  

    • It wasn't pretty but Cordero got the job done in the 9th. As Scot points out I too was surprised at how many walks the BRaves should have had had they not swung at Bergman's breaking pitch. Bergman could have easily had double the number of walks he gave up.


      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/13/2007 11:52 AM  

    • That's exactly it, and that's why I'm not getting too excited about the start and how he 'turned the corner'.

      The only difference between this start and his last was a better slider -- one good enough to fool the batters into swinging.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 4/13/2007 11:54 AM  

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