Do we worry about Todd Wellemeyer yet? Now seems like as good a time as any—he's not going to keep getting torched on balls in play, at least not to a .411 average, but he's looked surprisingly tentative for a guy who once was known for his fastball, and who is now only walking two and a half guys per nine innings. Certainly he's already chasing down Joel Pineiro for the title of uncertain back-of-the-rotation Worry-Focusing Point.
But I'm going to wait a little longer. Wellemeyer still has the good fastball and the excellent changeup, which I was excited to see more of as the day progressed.
About that changeup: according to pitchf/x, Wellemeyer threw eight of them in the first two innings: a swinging strike, a foul ball, four balls, and two singles. None in the third, and then in the fourth he brought it back out; the next seven brought him five swinging strikes, a ball, and the R.O.E. from The-space-riot. Wellemeyer has had two games in which he's failed to catch more than five hitters swinging, and unsurprisingly, neither was a good one. Tony La Russa mentioned the attitude the Cardinals take re: this kind of slump in the P-D:
"We want our pitchers to have the attitude we're in control of most of the luck and what happens against us."
La Russa and Duncan would never phrase it in this way, but being "in control of the luck" is what making hitters swing and miss is all about; it nullifies the inevitable Texas Leaguers and bad calls, and it can momentarily turn bad control into an asset. An effective Wellemeyer changeup is a pragmatic, proactive antidote to his BIP problems.
Blaine Boyer watch: None of us has really seen enough to make any judgments about Mr. Boyer yet, Dave Duncan excluded, but for what it's worth our latest nebulous pitching talent brought back his curveball for a cameo appearance against Ryan Theriot. This adds a new bullet-point to the Blaine Boyer Curveball Timeline. Right after the trade: Mozeliak, La Russa, everyone who has ever known Blaine Boyer praise the curveball. A little later: Blaine Boyer mentions that he hasn't really thrown it all year. Now it's back, but only in the Willis Reed-limping-onto-the-court sense; if it had any impact, it was emotional rather than useful.
In this brief piece from the Belleville News-Democrat Boyer says he's going to bring back the curve, which was his out pitch before this season, and now he's thrown one. The article's interesting: it mentions that in Spring Training he discarded the curveball because it was inconsistent, and went with a cutter instead. That sounds like he'd already been channeling Dave Duncan, and now he wants to bring the inconsistent, swinging-strike curveball back?
It's tough being a prescriptivist pitching coach, sometimes.
The Ankiel home run is a nice image for the way I think of Ankiel as a hitter. Here's video, for what it's worth. (Dear MLB.com: embeddable video, please?) Ankiel gets a pitch he can hit—or at least a pitch he can swing at—and he takes an ugly swing at it, a bald-faced, all-upper-body slow-pitch pull-swing, and puts it into the seats. I don't believe that Rick Ankiel could slump for an entire season because I don't think he, or anybody else, has any idea what it is he's doing when he's slumping or when he's hitting home run after home run.
For purposes of this Monday morning, let's call the bottom on the Ankiel slump and take a look at it with a healthy dose of retrospect. Five minutes with Baseball-Reference, and ten minutes with table HTML, gave me this list:
As Hemingway might say, We've seen them come and go. Big ones too. Better than you, Mr. 4/6-4/18 2009. I'm not going to suggest that Rick Ankiel is alright now, because I don't know what that means except in retrospect; he doesn't look locked in when he's locked in, but then I'll look at the last-seven-days widget on ESPN.com and realize he's hit .450. It's just hits in three games, but at least his seasonal line looks like an outfielder's, and not a—