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)


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