- If you looked looked at Jeff Weaver's stat line after the first two games, you'd think he's just been unlucky. Four strikeouts to two unintentional walks through eight innings, average LD%, average GB/FB, average strike rate...the peripherals suggest a perfectly standard #5 pitcher who's been crushed by an absurdly high .447 BABIP and an absurdly low 34.9% LOB%. Surely he'll turn it around before too long, right?
...well, yeah, but only in that his ERA won't stay 15.75 forever. Weaver's been unlucky through two starts, but he's also been completely godawful, and the longer it lasts, the more pessimistic I am that we'll ever get the guy we thought we were getting. His stuff just sucks, and while I don't know why his fastball has lost a few ticks since the World Series, it definitely has, and he's not going to survive for much longer with his current repertoire. Because we didn't foresee this dropoff, I'm not going to blame the Mariners for making this investment, but I will blame them if they still keep Weaver around after it becomes abundantly clear that he's finished.
The pregame scouting report is right - Weaver's fastball does have a lot of movement - but it's the soft, obvious kind, not the sharp late break we see with Felix. That's easy to line up, and it's the reason why Weaver doesn't miss any bats anymore. Watch the batter's front leg as Weaver throws one of his parabolic fastballs and you'll see that most of them have the timing down cold. It's pretty easy to track a mediocre fastball when its movement is slow. Slow break is predictable break, the result being that Weaver gets hit hard when his other pitches aren't working as well as he'd like (which, as a rule of thumb, never are). Sometimes he'll hit a thin part of the bat and get a pop-up, but other times he just gets the snot beat out of him, like yesterday when ten of his hits went for extra bases. Jason Tyner doesn't double twice against Major League arms. Hell, Jason Tyner doesn't double twice against minor league arms. Jason Tyner doubles twice against guys with no career. That's where Weaver's headed if he doesn't wake up next week throwing a few miles harder.
Beyond his lousy arsenal, it's also easy to see why so many people thought Weaver was a bad fit for the high-pressure environment of Yankee Stadium. He just doesn't respond well to stress, in particular the stress that comes from something not going his way. In the fifth inning, Weaver thought he had Torii Hunter struck out with a high fastball, and made it plenty evident that he disagreed with the umpire's decision. Visibly frustrated, the next pitch soared over the middle of the plate and seconds later came down several hundred feet away. Said Weaver afterwards:
After finally getting out of the inning (not before allowing another double, of course), Weaver spiked the ball and trudged back to the dugout with 19,000 people booing his sorry ass. Now, I'm not a psychiatrist, so I'm vastly underqualified to point out what I think was going through Weaver's head during the Hunter AB, but for a guy with a AAA repertoire, his body language and apparent attitude sure aren't making things any better. You'd think he'd be used to failure, but no, he's still throwing fits. Felix Hernandez gives up the first hit of a game in a hostile environment on national TV and comes back to get the next six guys he sees. Weaver gets a pitch called the wrong way, gives up a grand slam, and yells a lot. Something's wrong here.
The good news is that Weaver's next outing will come against Anaheim's comically pathetic punchline of a batting order, so at least there's some reason to hope. Because otherwise, based on what we've seen these first two games, Weaver pretty much entirely negates the Felix advantage. And that, in turn, negates our shot at the playoffs. He either needs to get better quick, or he needs to go away.
- So far this year, Jose Lopez has been the most extreme groundball hitter in baseball, and it's not even particularly close. His GB/FB of 5.33 pounds Aki Iwamura's 3.80 into the ground. Last night, of course, we were reminded of what Good Lopez looks like, as he went 2-4 with a single and a homer - both of which we yanked into left field - and I, in turn, was reminded of just how much damage this coaching staff is doing to the guy by actively encouraging him to develop a new skill at the expense of all his other ones. Jose Lopez doesn't need to hit the other way. I don't care if he never once hits a ball to right as long as he's sending 20-25 fly balls over left field fences. Lopez is 23 years old and already the Mariner coaches may have done irreversible harm to his career as a potential star player. They need to shut the hell up right now and let him do what he does best before it's too late and he turns into a slow Juan Pierre. Stress the fundamentals with guys who can't do anything else, not the ones who might have the most raw offensive talent on the roster.
- I love Pat Neshek.
Felix tonight. All of yesterday's disappointment melts away, revealing the sunny facade of a better today. God, this season is bipolar.