I'd love to put a copy of Baseball's Greatest Shortstops into the station's VHS deck and wait for them to pull the tarp, like FSN Midwest, but blogging is a different game—neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night, etc. Some weekend observations and links:
Over at Future Redbirds there's a look at P.J. Walters's pitchf/x data. And at MLB.com's vastly improved video portal—borderline Hulu-esque, at this point, after a years-long nightmare of Windows Media files and pop-up windows—there's this run-down of his strikeouts.
Walters is, if nothing else, a unique, exciting player to watch. He's a type two junkballer—the same predilection for the outside corner, the same iffy fastball, but it's coupled with a ton of swings and misses. Most of these guys are left-handed; Ted Lilly was the one that came to mind, perhaps because his Bill Murray look-a-like headshot is staring me in the face from the phantom game-thread, but there are others.
Take a look at the Play Index's list of recent strikeout pitchers—none of the right-handers all the way down the list seem like decent comps, which is certainly worrying. But for now it's a lot of fun—both his off-speed pitches are just a sight to see, like slow-moving, jam the joystick all the way outside videogame pitches.
From the strikeout roll you can see almost immediately where the regression might come—hitters, Soriano aside, aren't going to keep swinging at that circus slider on the outside corner. And it's only one game, but he's yet to dispel the idea that he's been forced to nibble as the hitters get better and stronger.
My eerie comparison of the day is to former Yankees farmhand Tyler Clippard, who—well, stop me if you've heard this one before. Clippard was a guy who throw in the upper 80s with a big curveball/changeup combo who racked up incredible strikeout totals in the low minors but was never highly touted (in Yankees terms.) His changeup looks like a screwball, but isn't.
Anyway, Clippard started to walk people as he moved through the minors, and he got beaten up in six MLB starts with the Yankees after a nifty debut. While some projection systems are still confident in his ability to strike people out, they're also confident in his ability to walk five batters a game in the process.
I'm sorry to do that to you, Gary Daley
Chuck's Ankiel entry is pretty comprehensive, and perhaps the most justified use of the title-exclamation-point in the history of this blog. But I think the story in his fangraphs contact stats is really the way he's stopped swinging at pitches inside the strike zone—the Z-swing% Chuck mentions.
Plate discipline is great, and I was excited about Ankiel's efforts to draw more walks, but a guy who swings and misses at as many mediocre pitches as he does has a limited range in which to operate; he can't stay in at-bats because eventually pitchers are going to throw it by him. It was an admirable effort, but converted pitchers, much like converted catchers, have to live or die, in the end, with the natural talent that let them make the switch in the first place.
That said, I think he's in the process of being prematurely buried. A lot can happen in a month and then not mean much at all, and whatever your opinion of his defense—I think there's something goofy going on with his UZR from last year, which puts a lot of weight on a short, three error stint in left field, personally—I think it's fair to say he maintains some inbuilt advantage against Chris Duncan in that regard. Obviously Ludwick needs to play every day, but after that I still think it's something of a push.