Hello again everyone! I’m happy to report that I’m back and blogging today from Sumter, SC. The last few days have been very hectic, between my other job and family stuff. The whirlwind landed me here for a few days as we celebrate my Father-In-Law’s birthday. He’s a great guy and we even got to watch the game together today as the Braves played flawless baseball on their way to a 2-0 win over the Nationals in Wahington, DC. Sweet!
As some of you may remember, I promised to try out a new feature when the season started. In essence, the concept is to highlight things that went unnoticed by the announcers but might prove to be important or interesting as the season grinds along. If it catches on, I’m sure it’ll evolve as we go, and if it doesn’t I’ll let it slip away quietly (you know, without mention ). With that being said, here we go with my first attempt!
Fredi Gonzales is his own man.
Fredi was careful in spring training to not rock the boat too much as he took over for the legendary Bobby Cox. As most of you know, there isn’t a great blueprint for success when succedding a legend. Truth is, most people fail. So, when Fredi didn’t change things up too much with spring training routines, welcomed Bobby’s input into things, and generally made the transition seamless, few people could criticize him too much. It was the way he handled the end of camp that both pleased and to a certain degree surprised me. Unlike Bobby, Fredi announced his roster before breaking camp, a subtle but important stamp of ownership. More significantly, no longer were the final decisions made mostly out of loyalty (or maybe just respect) for veterans. Instead of taking the easy route and keeping Proctor and Mather on the roster, he took players he thought had more talent, today, in Young and Martinez. In taking the unheralded Young, a foot shorter and unheard of by most fans before camp, he showed that he’s not afraid to take a risk. The same could be said for eating a portion of Proctor’s salary while simultaneously setting himself up for tons of criticism if the “proven” Proctor suddenly gets his groove back. Make no mistake, this is Fredi’s team. If he didn’t rock the boat, it’s because he didn’t think it needed rocking, not because he was afraid of rocking it.
Nitpicking Derek Lowe
In a startling observation, Derek Lowe looked really good today. He was a little inefficient, throwing over 100 pitches in 5 2/3 innings. But that’s not unexpected this early in the season. Here’s the thing that concerns me just a little: much was made of Lowe rediscovering his slider last September, with his resurrection being attributed largely to the slider. Today, though, he threw several frisbees that hoped to be sliders when they grew up. While you can get away with that sometimes against the Nationals, especially on a cold day in DC, I wouldn’t recommend trying it against the Phillies. If he can work on the slider on the side, great. If not, I’d be really careful when I threw it and to whom it was thrown. Otherwise, I’d stick to the sinker, which was moving late and moving a lot.
Eric got his first action today and, like the rest of the bullpen, pitched well. There were two things about Eric that made an impression on me today: The first was that his velocity is still not back to what it was before he stuggled with his respiratory illnesses last year. My recollection was that he threw easy gas in the 93-94 range. Today it looked like 91 was tops, and that was with maximum effort. Perhaps my memory is faulty, but if not this could be important. That extra 2 -3 MPH can be very helpful in setting up your other pitches. But you don’t want your pitchers to use maximum effort, as this leads to maximum injury risk. In any case, let’s just hope that he picks up his velocity the same way that Moylan seems to do every year. The second thing that I saw was that Fredi was unafraid to leave him in the game to face right handed batters. If Fredi was sending a message, I got it: Eric is not a situational lefty. I think that’s a good thing. The bad thing, though, is that Sherrill will be our only “LOOGY”. That’s scary.
I saw other things that weren’t metioned, but I’ll save some for tomorrow. Think defense. And let me know what you think, both about content and concept! Thanks!