Friday, October 23, 2009

AFL fix: The Schepp

10/19: 1ip/2s; 14/10 (1-0)

No pitch FX, however, 2 sources report that his velo ranged 94-98, 95-98 respectively. Both of his swinging strikeouts looked to be on high FB (judging on location) while his groundout seemed to be on a changeup (judging by the count).

10/22: 2ip/2so; 21/14 (1-3)
FB: 93.9-98.2, CB: 79.7-80.7, SL: 83.6-84.3, CU: 89.5-89.8

This is the first night that we have had some pitch fx info for the Schepp so it hasn't been clear what pitches he was throwing as everyone hyped up the FB velo and the curveball, but then, everyone already knew about those, right, from last year's draft, remember? So in this outing he breaks out all 4 of his pitches, including the other 2 that are critical for him to reach the elusive "ace" status. He may have used one or both the change and the slider in his first 2 appearances already, but, no one has mentioned either.

In his first inning (7th), he sat 97.1 (96-98), dropping in a couple of sliders for a swinging strike (83.6) and a called strike out (84.3), and a few curveballs: 79.7 (B), 80 (CS), 80.7 (CSO). 9 strikes/2 balls (fb). His last out was a CSO and it was a rather sick sequence likely evincing a few long, pleading stares toward the mound: (RHH) - FB, CS, OC, 98.2; Slider, SS, OC, 83.6; Huge curveball, 80.7, a bit high in the zone and inside, freezing the hitter for a called strike three. Sick.

In his second inning (8th), he sat 95.7 (94-97), and broke out a couple of changeups registering at 89.5/89.8, one for a swinging strike, the other for a groundout. That seems a tic hard but both were effective evidently so no complaints here. He also dropped in another curve (80) for a ball. 5 strikes/5 balls.

As I reported in my post on Schepp's first appearance, the best news about him so far is _ not _ that he has a plus plus FB or that he has a plus curve (we knew that going into the 2008 draft) or that he is healthy (he has been pitching in games since March/April), but that the reports about his improved changeup, his improved delivery, and the addition of a serviceable slider seem to be about right. The other encouraging thing is that his command and pitch sequencing have been great.

Looking at his first three starts, it seems that he he works the zone very well, not throwing anything too meaty up there with any frequency. He is able to work both the inside and outside corners to both lefties and righties. He'll elevate his FB or bury it low and out of the zone _and_ hit his spots. He also seems to be able to tail/run his fastball away from some batters when called for. He gets swings and misses with all 4 of his pitches though the sample size is admittedly small for his second order ones. And just as an aside, and a dig towards some, if you think that DGut will eventually live up to the prospect hype as a future top rotation-caliber pitcher, ask yourself if you can imagine scripting a profile for him along the lines of what you have just read.

Anyways, count me impressed. He's a much better pitcher than he was during his JR year and you can chalk it all up to hard work. Of course, you might say, why so breathless after only 5 innings? And I say, yeah your probably right, but we'll have to wait until next year to see if he can do these things as a starter and do them deep into games and deep into a season. I'll cede you that point if you cede me the right to experience a specie of short-sample-sized giddiness for the next 2 months.

So, yeah, looking forward to more and more and more from him. You have to wonder whether he could end up making the bullpen out of spring training or if TX would want to let him build up some innings for 3 months before calling him up with an eye toward the Feliz plan - 1/2 season MiL starter, 1/2 season ML pen, 2 1/2 months of winter ball, then into the 2011 rotation.



  1. Rooster here.... The empirical evidence is small, but I'm tempted to say Scheppers is a better prospect than Feliz.

  2. Based on the Pitch F/X data, it doesn't appear to me that Scheppers threw his slider last night. The 83 and 84 MPH pitches that you suggested were sliders had the double digit Pitch F/X break of a curveball.

  3. Hey Dave, yeah, I went back and forth on that but did look at the Gameday pitchfx and visualization tools last night (but not Brookes today) and also compared that pitch to the breaking balls of Dgut, Garr and Reed using both sites. My conclusion was that it could be one of three things: a very hard curve (which seems unlikely, as it would mean that he throws two hard curves), a slurve, or a slider. I lean towards slurve, as how many MLB pitchers throw an 84.3 mph curveball? And at his velo range, a slider proper would probably come in around 87-90. So, slurve. Anyways, sounds like a fangraph project for you - what current ML pitchers throw an 84+ CB like Schepp?

    I'll review the data again after his next outing and see if i'm of the same mind ...

  4. Kevin Jepsen's "curve" averaged 83.6 MPH in 2009 and can be clearly distiguished from his slider ased on its downward break. Several other ML pitchers throw curveballs that average ~82 MPH (Hernandez, Burnett, Bell) which is about what Scheppers collection averaged assuming they were all the same pitch. The combination of velocity and break on Scheppers' pitch is rare - it definitely profiles as plus. Despite the velocity readings, I am mildly concerned about his fastball since it doesn't appear to move very much. That will probably change if he settles into starting.

    I sent a Scheppers article to Joey this morning, so hopefully it will post within the next few days.

  5. Hopefully Schepp gets stretched out a bit over the next 4 weeks so we can safely saw we've seen his entire arsenal. I will say that if the pitch turns out to be a curve, I would argue that he is changing speeds on it, as the velo ranges group together nicely as I have indicated, with about a 4mph separation. Limited SS to be sure...

    At this point I don't have much concern about the FB, as he misses bats so some other elements have to be considered (deception, sequencing, command). By contrast, DGut has exactly 3 swing and misses on his FB with ~7 innings(~80%fastballs)(none on curveballs to my surprise). It is _his_ FB (command) that I will be keeping an eye on I think; his strike ratio is sub-50% after the first inning...

    I should also say that I take the performances in the AFL only a little more seriously than instructs, and that I also view the league, like instructs, as place where players are working on things, sometimes to their detriment. So, as much as I think Scheppers will be an ace or that DGut will end up a reliever, I won't really use their AFL performances to argue about their ceilings. The AFL is a short-sample-size workshop by definition (for all but the most advanced) with the performance/ceiling correlation conditional at best. For me the DGut, Scheppers cases won't play out definitively until next year. Here's hoping that DGut makes it to the ASB without violating his parole so we can see how it all plays out:)

  6. I agree completely that pitch usage and performance numbers in the AFL are not particularly predictive of future performance, though Tommy Hanson's 2008 AFL performance seemed to act as a springboard for his 2009 season. I do think that you can get a pretty good sense of how a pitchers' stuff is coming along, though. To me, the Pitch F/X data coming out of the AFL is priceless.