Thursday, February 24, 2011

Camp Notes

* Some progress on the injury front per Andro:
Hurley should throw a bullpen this weekend; Castillo is already throwing from flat ground after ditching his walking boot a few days ago; Miggie DLS should throw off the mound as soon as Friday after being shelved for that last 5 weeks. UPDATE per Durrett: RHP Fabio Castillo (broken bone in left foot) will continue to throw off flat ground, but is still wearing the boot at times during the day.

* Evan Grant still thinks he's on to something about Feliz: throwing a fastball too much is not good for a starter; he can't throw his changeup for strikes, therefore, if he misses low, that would be good; as opposed to not having good secs, now it is a matter of having confidence to throw them. That last bit is a big change for Grant, now at least admitting that he has secs, and can occasionally throw them for strikes (or at least, throw them low...?) so he's making progress. It should also suggest to him, among other things that a season is not a ceiling or a measure of talent but a snapshot of what kind of season it was. The snap shot of 2009 was a little different. At least he's letting go of this image apparently seared in his mind that "Feliz seemed to have a shitty spring training in 2010 when being stretched out so therefore he is probably not a starter."

The thing Grant seems to miss (other than small things like the performance metrics and scouting information for him from the previous 2 years) when eyeballing Feliz's season are the things that matter most as a starter: the importance of pitch efficiency, pitch sequencing, changing speeds, and moving the ball around the zone, and not throwing as hard. Those are the things he has to master in order to start. The other issue is, of course, just how much Feliz can prove any of that during spring trainging. Spring training is not really an audition for most players. The staff already knows what they are capable of and what they need to work on so the drama of spring is really a (beat writer) melodrama as the race to win a spot on any 25 man roster is usually already a fait accompli. That is to say, most roster spots and roles are not won in spring training at all. If Texas needs another month to determine whether or not Feliz can start, then it is already much too late.

Anyways, by the end of the spring, Grant will probably admit that Feliz has a nice future on the mound as a starter. He should also take note that Trip Somer's pitch f/x can aggregate pitch type info by date range to save him some time over at Brooks. Just as an aside, remember his man-love for Ogando, now dissipated it seems? Grant seemed to think Ogando was a better starter prospect because he threw his breaking ball more. Fangraphs wieghted runs above average for his slider was .4 to Feliz's 4.1 for his slurve. Throwing it more, doesn't make it better. The figure for each one's changeup was about 0, though I argue that Feliz's change does flash plus and is his second best pitch when on. Prior to mid-season 2009 in the minors, the slurve was his second best pitch. He will continue to throw his slurve more than the change and it might end up being his second best offering in the long-term, we'll have to see. The point is that both pitches flash plus and he can command them, with the changeup being pretty effective at getting groundballs in 2010, as it should be (unless it is your wipeout pitch).

Another issue that Grant overlooks, is that some of Feliz' struggles last year, particularly in the playoffs, had to do with losing command of his fastball in the zone at times, which he doesn't mention at all. Like Feliz, Ogando also threw his split-change less than 5% of the time, which is less than 1 changeup per outing, so it still isn't clear to me why Grant believe's Ogando is a better candidate to start (for that reason, among many others).

I'm not sure that now is the right time for Feliz to move to the rotation, but I'm pretty convinced that he can do it eventually. What kind of top roto arm can he become this year, in the long term - an Ace, #1, 1_2, 2, 2_3 - I'm not sure. Even for top roto-caliber arms, their first year isn't their best, and they rarely pitch like they will in year 2 and beyond. So, it may be that Feliz disappoints in his first year as a starter, should that come to pass. As a precaution, I'd prefer to trade for a mid-roto arm to stabilize the rotation if he were in it so that the team can have patience with him if he struggles. The team tried to do that in the off-season but came up empty. So if your not sure what the right time is, or if the script that you want is not likely to be the script that you get, the time is now I guess.

* A couple of articles today on Thad Bosely. He's kind of unknown, being out of a coaching gig for 7 years. It is clear to me that there was a sea-change from Jaramillo to Hurdle in the culture of hitting on the team. For the most part, it worked, whatever working solution that the staff and the players ended up with. They seem to have bought into "it". However, unlike Hurdle, who at least had job continuity and an extensive pedigree to have faith in, the only thing we really know about Bosely is that Washington and the front office love the guy (he was runners up to Hurdle last year). While it is easy to overstate the influence of any one coach - it is the culture of the club that seems to matter most - there were a couple of interesting quotes from him today that seem a little incongruous with the the new culture of hitting in Arlington:

I'm not a believer in working a pitcher to take a walk," Bosley said. "I believe you've got to know the pitcher, and get a pitch you can drive. If you get an 0-0 pitch you can drive, you've got to jump on it."

"There were times when he (Hamilton) was just pushing the ball to left field, when he could have been driving it out of the park.

Now while, this might be true of Elvis Andrus, though, his power outage was mainly due to the changes in his approach that he felt he needed to make as a leadoff hitter (hopefully he becomes a little more balanced now that he knows that role, that spot, and himself a even better), I'm not sure it is characteristic of guys like Cruz, Young, or Hamilton. Maybe Kinsler falls into that category but then I would rather have the 2010 Kinsler (healthy) than the 2009 Kinsler (hacking). Whatever the case, I hope the value of working a walk doesn't change, nor the emphasis on making the pitcher throw more pitches when he is not on to elevate his pitch count, an element of previous teams that was completely absent and maddeningly frustrating (save 2008 when Bradley was here, and seemed to rub off on some people).

Wilson leads off his article with an inadvertantly funny Rick James moment: "I'm Thad Bosley (bitch)." And while the campy little meme that he hopes to implant in each hitter's head when at the plate seems a little much - "I am a line drive hitter", I did like one quote which offers up a little clarification of what TR Sullivan's piece was getting at:

At the major-league level, pitchers make mistakes in the strike zone," said Bosley, who spent the final two years of his 14-year career with the Rangers. "When they make that mistake, that's when you've got to be able to put that ball in play. We want to be a little more efficient in the strike zone."
The tenor of both articles seems to be pretty much the same and mirrors the same things that Hurdle said when he came to town: he's not interested in implementing a system rather he's only interested in getting the best out of each player's swing. The proof is in the puddin' as they say. While this approach might help a few players and others, not at all, I'd expect more of the same in 2011 which is not really a surprise, but good to hear.

* I really liked this bullpen when Francisco was still here and Feliz seemed unlikey to shift to the roto. I really liked this bullpen when Francisco was still here and when it seemed that Feliz might actually make the shift to the roto. Now that Francisco is gone and Feliz is closer to jumping to the roto, this bullpen is a little unsettling. It was a brilliant move to include Lowe in the the Lee deal as it offered the team a great deal more flexibility. However Lowe has only had one good year and has much to prove. I did not see the "closer" in Ogando last year. He had trouble with people on base and he could be a little tentative at times, so much so that Texas avoided using him in high-leverage situations late in the year. He has something to prove as well. Rhodes is not a guy who should pitch every other day though he can still close a game if he needs too, but you'd like to see him mostly in a setup role. Ideally he (and Oliver and O'Day for that matter) should end up with right around 50-55 innings to maintain his effectiveness. Oliver and O'Day don't have closer stuff. So, the bullpen is definitely a bit of a "known unknown" but there is no denying that Ogando has a great fastball and the Lowe has good stuff too with a little more high leverage experience. I like the idea of having Strop around with his potentially elite stuff, and Tanner Scheppers, should the bullpen have a crisis before July. So, right now, the big stories of camp are: Feliz, Ogando, and Lowe. I guess the next most compelling story would be: Holland. The Webb story might be interesting or surprising for some (after all he is completely "healthy" right?) but not something that is really unexpected.


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