Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New Dogs, New Tricks

I'm always skeptical when a player finds a slight mechanical fix and suddenly all seems right in the world. In the case of Matt Chico and his magical new leg kick, I'll believe it when I see it. I've sometimes liked Chico's approach, but I've never been wowed by what he throws. Sometimes when you're watching a game, you'll see a pitcher make a pitch, fooling a batter, and you'll smile at how effective that was. I can think of Hill's sinker, Bergmann's breakers in the dirt, Rauch's fastball, etc. But Chico? Does he have a plus pitch?

While the leg kick likely isn't going to improve the quality of his individual pitches, it does seem as if it's affected his velocity.
In the past, the Braves knew Chico as a guy who threw in the low-to-mid 80s. But, on Wednesday, they were surprised to see that Chico was throwing in the 90s.

"Now he is getting up to 90," said Braves second baseman Kelly Johnson, who went 0-for-2 against Chico. "Somebody said it was up to 94. I don't know if that was accurate. Regardless, he has more velocity. He looks good. He was moving the ball around. He is someone you have to battle with a little. Whatever he has done, it has worked."

Here's a list of everyone who threw 100 or more innings last year sorted by average fastball speed. Just a few ticks below Mike Bacsik is Matt Chico. Chico's in a group with slop-throwers like David Wells, Livan Herandez, Woody Williams and Steve Trachsel. That works if you're a wily veteran with some ok secondary pitches. For a young Chico? Meh.

If he gets that up into the 88-90 range, he's in more familiar company, with some decent pitchers. Velocity alone isn't enough, but having a few extra MPH never killed anyone. (except Ray Chapman)


  • Wow, nice Ray Chapman blast. Not sure why I'm laughing at that. Does Carl Mays have any options left? Maybe we could sneak him through waivers.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/27/2008 12:05 AM  

  • You have said it yourself in the past, Chris: the batters tell you how effective the pitcher is. I proffer Kelly Johnson as exhibit A.

    Either the Braves were going on scouting reports that have since been outdated by virtue of Chico's magical transformation, or maybe, just maybe, he really is getting better. The proof is in the pudding.

    Or could it be...the LoDuca Effect? (Assuming he caught Chico.)

    By Blogger Bote Man, at 3/27/2008 9:57 AM  

  • Incredible list! Amazing the number of wins at the bottom. Slowest pitcher in the bigs last year has 168 career wins. Next slowest guy has 230 career wins. Fourth slowest has 134, fifth has 303 and is sure fire HOF. Tenth slowest has won 347 games is is another sure-fire HOF.

    Chico is 13th slowest pitcher. What am I supposed to glean from all this?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/27/2008 7:28 PM  

  • That old, washed-up formerly great pitchers pitch slowly?

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/27/2008 7:30 PM  

  • Wakefield won 17 last year, Moyer 14, Livan 11, Glavine 13 and Maddux 14. Guess the washed-up theory doesn't work, does it? Fastest guy in the bigs only won 14 last year so I wouldn't say he has anything on this group, would you?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/27/2008 7:48 PM  

  • Ummm... thanks for commenting, Mrs. Chico.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/27/2008 7:59 PM  

  • Chris, what are you talking about Mrs. Chico for?

    You are usually a solid stats guy. I would expect you to understand that pitching is about THREE things: location, velocity and changing speeds. Statistically, the chart you put up shows that there is little, if any, correlation between velocity and wins, one measure (albeit not a great one) of pitching success. In fact, statistically, that chart implies that there is negative correlation between velocity and success. I don't believe that, of course.

    Last week, you tried to convince us that Patterson was doing well because velocity doesn't matter, strikeouts to Ks were an important stat. This week, Chico sucks because he's a soft tosser. You may be right. I don't get worked up about his, or anyone else's velocity. What discourages me about Chico is the walks and the fly ball tendencies.

    Velocity is overrated! It is what scouts use to judge high school pitchers. You see what a crap shoot drafting based on radar gun readings is.

    Having said that, a pitcher with high velocity and great control gets you a young Roger Clemens, someone who can strike out 20 and not walk anybody. Chico will never have the velocity to be anywhere remotely near that good but 'lots more ball to be played' before we know what he finally turns into.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/27/2008 10:32 PM  

  • Velocity isn't the be-all, end-all, but Chico's stuff has never impressed me. He's got ok secondary pitches, but nothing that's going to elevate him past anything more than a 4th starter.

    Now if he improves his velocity a bit, that's only going to make his overall effectiveness go up. That's all I was saying. If the changes to velocity are real, that's a good thing.

    Otherwise, we've got a soft-tossing flyballer with mediocre control and so-so stuff -- a recipe for a player with a pretty short major-league career.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/27/2008 10:35 PM  

  • Agreed! Absolutely.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/27/2008 10:58 PM  

  • So now we've got a moderate-speed-tossing flyball pitcher with so-so control and somewhat mediocre stuff!

    (Don't you feel so much better now?) :)

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/27/2008 10:59 PM  

  • Nope. Not until he gets better control, at least.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/27/2008 11:34 PM  

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