In case you've been living under a rock for a little while, you probably haven't heard today's Mariner news. You probably haven't heard any news at all, because you're a bug. The team has added Jesus Colome to the mix, signing him to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. You might remember Colome for being bad all of the time.
There's no point in giving any kind of detailed rundown of Colome's track record. Here's what you need to know: he's a fly ball guy who walks everyone and doesn't have the strikeouts to go with his famously blazing fastball. He can and does regularly reach the high-90s, which is what got him noticed in the first place, but he has yet to make any further progress, although in Colome's defense, it's only been twelve years.
It's tempting to draw a parallel between this and the David Aardsma addition a year ago. Hey, they're both fastball guys with lousy control, right? And if the team can get Aardsma straightened out, then we can have hope for Colome as well, yeah?
Eh. For one thing, Aardsma came in with a 21% strikeout rate, while Colome's at 17%. Aardsma had already demonstrated the ability to miss a lot of bats, whereas Colome, not so much.
And for another, consider their fastballs. Using PITCHfx data:
Aardsma and Colome's fastballs have both velocity and horizontal movement in common, but that's a huge difference in the 'Vertical' row. Vertical movement between, say, 0-5 implies a sinker, which tend to be hittable. Vertical movement between 6-9 implies a normal fastball. Vertical movement at 10 or above implies a 'rising' fastball, which doesn't so much rise as it does sink way less than other fastballs. These fastballs are hard to hit, because they're like straight lines without any drop.
Aardsma throws a dynamite four-seamer that's like a laser beam out of his hand. Colome's fastball, meanwhile, isn't bad, but it's pretty standard, and sinks like a normal fastball sinks. It isn't special. It's fast, but its movement is ordinary, which makes it a lot easier to pick up and predict than Aardsma's.
So Colome's raw repertoire - which consists of a fastball, an occasional slider, and an occasional-er changeup - isn't as good as Aardsma's raw repertoire. Granted, I'm not paying much attention to the secondary stuff, but both of these guys work off of their fastballs, so that's how they're going to get their success. Aardsma's fastball allowed him to have good success in 2009. Colome's fastball, at least to me, appears to have a lower ceiling. And that just doesn't make him very interesting.
So, warm body. Who knows, maybe Colome does figure it out. Maybe he blows everyone away in spring training and earns himself a roster spot. Maybe Sean White stays hurt and Kanekoa Texeira sucks and no other righty steps up. Jesus Colome isn't facing impossible odds. He's just facing long ones, and even if we do end up getting to see him in a Mariner uniform, chances are he doesn't pitch like any more than a replacement-level reliever. Not all fastball guys are cut from the same cloth.