Mound Musings: Life, the Universe and Everything

Mound Musings: Life, the Universe and Everything

This article is part of our Mound Musings series.

Over the past few years, Life, the Universe and Everything, has gradually become a semi-regular part of Mound Musings. As we all try to answer the ultimate question, I'll occasionally dedicate this space to elaborating on questions from you, the readers, as well as taking the opportunity to make brief comments about current events. If you have a pitching question, fire away, that's what we're here for.

Why I learned to hate the sinker: Oh, those trials and tribulations. Fantasy baseball is all about trying to predict performance, and it always seems like sinker ball pitchers are trying to foil those attempts. It's the nature of the pitch. Very small variations in the delivery can have a major impact on the end results. For example, throw it just a little too hard and that effective sinker becomes a batting practice fastball. Ouch.

Case(s) in point. I own Logan Webb in every league. He has pitched fairly well this season, but lately he has been more hittable, he has issued more walks, and his pitch counts have been somewhat elevated. His delivery right now is slightly out of sync, and that makes him more vulnerable. It's frustrating. He'll get it back. Hopefully that return will occur very soon. Conversely, his Cubs' counterpart, Kyle Hendricks, seems to be clicking right now based on his start earlier this week.

The worst of it is the never-ending challenge of identifying an upcoming good day or bad day. It's almost impossible. What did you

Over the past few years, Life, the Universe and Everything, has gradually become a semi-regular part of Mound Musings. As we all try to answer the ultimate question, I'll occasionally dedicate this space to elaborating on questions from you, the readers, as well as taking the opportunity to make brief comments about current events. If you have a pitching question, fire away, that's what we're here for.

Why I learned to hate the sinker: Oh, those trials and tribulations. Fantasy baseball is all about trying to predict performance, and it always seems like sinker ball pitchers are trying to foil those attempts. It's the nature of the pitch. Very small variations in the delivery can have a major impact on the end results. For example, throw it just a little too hard and that effective sinker becomes a batting practice fastball. Ouch.

Case(s) in point. I own Logan Webb in every league. He has pitched fairly well this season, but lately he has been more hittable, he has issued more walks, and his pitch counts have been somewhat elevated. His delivery right now is slightly out of sync, and that makes him more vulnerable. It's frustrating. He'll get it back. Hopefully that return will occur very soon. Conversely, his Cubs' counterpart, Kyle Hendricks, seems to be clicking right now based on his start earlier this week.

The worst of it is the never-ending challenge of identifying an upcoming good day or bad day. It's almost impossible. What did you have for breakfast? Are you feeling extra perky today? All you can do is wait and see. It will balance out over the course of a season.

Jhoan Duran is hungry like a wolf: He has quickly become one of my favorite relief pitchers to watch, and you don't have to watch long to start dreaming about what he is likely to become. He can still occasionally struggle a bit with command, but he is the prototypical closer, and I am convinced that is his destiny.

A few days ago I watched a telling two-inning outing. He struck out five. The first couple hitters he baffled with these nasty sliders. You knew it was coming and so did the hitters, but the question was, when?  And then, it happened. Slider, slider, slider, 103. Blink. Blink. Go sit down. It was beautiful.

Remembering the softball after a couple weeks in play: I'm not going to dwell on this, as it's not really something we can really validate, but I do think it's worth mentioning. Back in the day I played both baseball and softball. I remember a brand-new softball right out of the box being a rocket when you hit it, but that same ball being what we called a "mush ball" after a few days in play. No matter how hard you hit it, nothing. There are rumblings that baseballs are the same as those mush balls, and I have seen a lot of apparently well hit balls die on the warning track. Home runs are down.

Further, the banning of "sticky stuff" is still having some impact on pitching. The balls are more difficult to grip, and pitchers who rely on high spin rate can struggle to generate that spin. I think it is also part of the command issues we are seeing including more hit batters. Lack of training for young pitchers is the bigger factor, but I see that gradually improving. Did you know baseballs in Japan are actually stickier?

Looking for wins in all the wrong places: Good or bad, wins and/or quality starts are still primary scoring categories in most fantasy leagues. It's probably not too surprising that they are becoming harder and harder to come by, but maybe you didn't realize how bad it has been in some cities. Some teams are up to about 30 games played in 2022, and it wasn't until earlier this week (May 9) that a Pirates starting pitcher logged a win. Jose Quintana had his name drawn out of the hat as the winner as the Bucs defeated – are you ready – Julio Urias and the Dodgers with the best record in MLB.

And the tail continues. Did you know the hapless Reds have yet to record a quality start? In fact, no Reds starter has lasted the six innings required to even qualify for a QS. For some time now I have been encouraging readers to try and avoid pitchers on weak teams, and these are just two examples of why. Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, an the other also rans will win a few, but even good outings posted by their starters can come  up short.

What about all these kids? We currently have no idea how this will play out. Many teams would probably prefer to avoid calling up prospects who aren't quite ready to contribute. But, the need for innings is acute, and we are seeing a flock of new arrivals practically every week. It's problematic seeing kids getting beat up routinely, and that can have a negative impact psychologically. And, what about fantasy implications? Even heavily hyped prospects may or may not see the key role you anticipate, and when they do pitch, an under-prepared prospect can be a fantasy disaster.

On the other hand, and this is the key takeaway of this commentary, I sense an evolving approach to developing young pitchers. I'm actually seeing pitchers who appear to have been taught to pitch. In recent years, drafting, signing and developing pitching prospects focused on one thing – velocity. I could be wrong; it could be an illusion, but some of these kids are displaying at least a basic understanding of repeatable motion, pitch mix and finesse. Not all by any means, but I see the makings of a trend, and that is HUGE.

Just a few days ago I watched a pretty well thought of rookie make his major league debut. Seattle's George Kirby came up from Double-A and pitched exceptionally well. It wasn't perfect, there is still some work to do, but it was very encouraging. He didn't overthrow and stayed well within himself. First time through the order he stuck to fastballs and sliders before mixing in change-ups for a little different look as he saw hitters a second time. That's pitch mix.

We'll watch closely to see which direction this ends up going, but my best advice today would probably be to tread very cautiously with as yet unproven prospects. We need to know which guys are ready to pitch and which are still just throwers.

Some Notable Rotation Ramblings:

  • The Yankees' Nestor Cortes just keeps doing his thing. He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of his last start against Texas and notched 11 strikeouts doing it. He's good, but he still worries me just a bit because much of his success appears to be linked to a deceptive start/stop delivery. Hitters aren't timing him.
  • Overall, I thought the positives outweighed the negatives in Luis Castillo's first 2022 start. Pretty good velocity and command early before he appeared to become fatigued and labored in the fourth and fifth innings. The Reds pushed him to 86 pitches, and things could be better as he builds more stamina.
  • Noah Syndergaard is continuing his transition to a "finesse" pitcher. Okay, not completely. He's no longer the fire-breathing dragon he was with the Mets, as his fastball velocity is down significantly, but it seems to be there when he asks for it. They may just be protecting his arm as he comes back to get more innings.
  • It's not panic time yet, but am getting a bit concerned about Brandon Woodruff. The season has progressed far enough that the Brewers' righty should be settling in, and he continues to struggle with location, especially with his off-speed stuff. His velocity is down slightly, but again my concerns are minimal.
  • He has hinted at good things to come since he started grabbing attention last year, and the Angels' Reid Detmers put it all together in a no-hitter against the Rays. He walked just one and struck out two while needing a very efficient 108 pitches. Maintaining that efficiency will be the key to him continuing to perform.
  • You can't help but love the arm of Cincinnati's Hunter Greene, but his scorecard is filled with strikeouts, walks, and home runs. The strikeouts are obviously nice, but sometimes those walks come in front of the home runs. Huge upside, but he's not ready, so he is currently pitching to survive rather than to succeed.

Endgame Odyssey:

I think I will move the Red Sox to the top of the train-wreck bullpen list. Matt Barnes is still a mess. I can't honestly say if he is hurt or not, but I can say he is ineffective. And, Hansel Robles is right there with him. I'm leaning to Matt Strahm as their best late-innings option. In Oakland, Lou Trivino missed some time on the COVID list and was promptly thumped when he returned. Dany Jimenez filled in while he was out and could figure into the mix moving forward. Neither is really a great option. The Giants' Jake McGee continues to struggle with back spasms. More than anything, that solidifies Camilo Doval as their primary closer. I think McGee will work things out, and he is likely to serve as the top alternative when needed. Seattle appears to have the biggest closer pool with several arms taking turns. I still believe one of them, Andres Munoz, is just a little more consistency away from claiming the gig full time.

As I look over my closer notes, it may be time to review some of the bullpen scenarios in depth. We'll plan on that next week.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brad Johnson
For more than 30 years, pitching guru Brad "Bogfella" Johnson has provided insightful evaluation and analysis of pitchers to a wide variety of fantasy baseball websites, webcasts and radio broadcasts. He joined RotoWire in 2011 with his popular Bogfella's Notebook.
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