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9-9, Some Stuff

  • Just like after the Washburn shutout of the A's a few days ago, a big part of me wants to sit here and tell you how little work Ho Ramirez did last night in quieting the Royals. But you know what? No. It's gotten to the point with this rotation that I don't care how a pitcher doesn't allow eight runs in five innings, as long as he doesn't allow eight runs in five innings. Sure, Ho got some help in getting out of jams from a lineup with five members currently batting .207 or worse, but he didn't implode, and for one night, that's something. Just because it isn't repeatable doesn't mean it isn't something to be happy about.

    Ho's pitch of choice yesterday looked to be a big sweeping curveball that he'd drop on lefties with two strikes (Gordon, 2nd inning) or place on the outside corner to freeze righties. It was certainly his most effective pitch, anyway, as I don't think it got hit hard once all game long. Based on absolutely nothing, I'm going to go ahead and say that how good Ho does this year will depend on how well he's able to locate that pitch on a game-by-game basis. When it's missing, all he has is a bad fastball that the hitters can sit on. When it's finding its spots, it'll induce a lot of end-of-the-bat pop-ups and groundouts. Yesterday was one of Ho's good days. Pray for more.

  • Funny thing about April stats: 24 hours ago, Jose Lopez was a problem second baseman with a .680 OPS. Now he looks like an All-Star Reserve at .788. God bless Kansas City. Of course, Lopez's three homers on eight outfield flies is a rate that rivals Ryan Howard's from a year ago, so that's not going to keep up unless you think Lopez is one of the strongest hitters in baseball, but it's always nice to see him flash that power to left field. With any luck, every home run he hits puts a little dent in the groundball philosophy that's been drilled into his brain.
  • At some point, you have to wonder when Royals fans will start longing for Angel Berroa after being subjected to Tony Pena Jr. every day, the Man Who Sucks At Everything. The guy has a worse career minor league BA, OBP, and SLG than Wilson Valflippingdez, for Christ's sake. Let's do a little rundown:

    Batting average: .253 minors, .214 Majors. Bad.
    Patience: 0.19 BB/K minors, 0.24 BB/K Majors. Bad.
    Power: .082 Iso minors, .110 Iso Majors. Bad.
    Contact: 20% K% minors, 21% K% Majors. Bad.
    Running: 59% SB rate minors, N/A Majors. Bad.
    Defense: No evidence that he's good, only reputation. Part of an infield that's been -3 so far this season. Questionable.
    Intangibles: Son of manager who fired himself. Bad.

    HACKING MASS superstar right here. I suppose, if nothing else, this is a lesson in why KC fans should be happy with what they have (e.g. Angel Berroa, Andres Blanco), because to borrow a line from Cannibal! The Musical:

    Probably the most important thing is that when things get really bad and the world looks its darkest, you just have to throw up your hands and say "Well, all right!" Because it's probably going to get a whole hell of a lot worse.

    Words to live by.

  • Felix:
    RHP Felix Hernandez, sidelined recently with a strained forearm, threw a 35-pitch bullpen session before the game and said he felt good.

    Harden:

    Injury update: Geren said Rich Harden (strained shoulder) was a little sore after playing catch Thursday, so Harden did not throw at all Friday.

    Submitted without further comment.

  • JJ Putz made another lengthy appearance last night, going 1.2 innings in relief of Chris Reitsma to nail down his third save in four games. While that's all well and good, though, observers were troubled by the fact that like 23 of Putz's 24 pitches were 93-95mph straight fastballs. He threw the splitter once - for a swinging strike - and then abandoned it again, as has been the case since pretty much the final third of last season.

    When asked about the pitch, JJ said that he lost the grip. It's not that he hasn't wanted to throw it, it's that he hasn't been able to throw it properly because it doesn't feel right in his hand. Seems legitimate, although think about this for a moment: how often do you hear that, say, Felix lost the grip for his curveball, or Jarrod Washburn lost the grip for his changeup? It doesn't happen. Those pitches might have bad days, but they don't have bad weeks (or months, for that matter).

    A comfortable grip comes from regular use. That is, you only lose your grip for a pitch when you haven't thrown it in a while. So if the whole grip thing is true, it stems from Putz getting too fastball-happy at one point last season (when the splitter first became conspicuously absent) and forgetting all about his breaking pitch. When that happens, it can be difficult to get back into a groove again, especially when the guy who taught the pitch to you in the first place has been dealt to Cincinnati. Remember, Putz has only had the pitch for about 13 months, now. It's still new to him. If a comfortable grip is the problem, then it's going to take some hard work to keep the splitter as part of Putz's arsenal.

    All that said, I'm not yet ready to look past Putz's sore elbow. The splitter arguably does more damage to the elbow than any other pitch in baseball, and it's possible that he got hurt throwing the pitch last year and abandoned it out of self-preservation. It's something to consider, anyway. It'd make sense in a 2007 context - Putz came out of ST with an elbow at less than 100% and since then we've only seen the splitter two or three times. If this is actually what's going on, then it'll be interesting to see if Putz only goes to the splitter when he really needs a putout. He didn't face much of a threat last night, so he stuck with the fastball. Had this been a one-run game against the Yankees, though, we might've seen more breaking balls. That'll be something to watch as the season wears on, because the splitter is what turned Average Putz into Lights-Out Putz. We don't know for sure where it went, but without the threat of the pitch, JJ isn't nearly as intimidating.