Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Big Bartolo Colon Rocks On In 2017

He is over forty three years old, and he weighs somewhere around three hundred pounds. Almost every pitch he throws is a fastball. No, they aren't so fast any longer, but he can put them just about right where he wants them to be. He is Bartolo Colon, and at one time he was the hardest throwing starting pitcher in all the Major Leagues.

Two hundred and thirty four career victories, and I hope he learns the knuckle-ball and pitches until he's well past fifty years. I'd love to see him get three hundred wins, but it won't happen. He could still make the HOF, you never know.

He turned in yet another first rate season in 2016, and now he's off to yet another new team, this time it is the Braves in Atlanta. Bart Colon is the last remaining player who once played for the Montreal Expos. He's the last of the Mohicans.

Bartolo Colon

You have to admire Bartolo Colon. How could you not? He is now 42 years old, and still a starting pitcher in the Major Leagues. Yes, this has been done before, but not often. Bartolo isn't done yet. Who knows how long he may be able to go on? Personally, I hope he learns the knuckleball, or something, and pitches into his 50's.
Longevity is something I admire in a person. 42 isn't old for a human, but it is for a professional baseball player. Especially, it is old for a pitcher. But Colon has adapted over the years. He'll be the first to tell you. At one point, years ago, Bartolo Colon was known as the guy who threw the most pitches in the upper 90 mile per hour and 100 mile per hour range of all pitchers in the Major Leagues. He did that for a season or three, but Bartolo was just a thrower of a pitcher then. Nowadays, he barely breaks 90 miles per hour at all.

Bartolo Colon is one very successful human being

You can measure a person's success in many different ways. But if you measure it by looking at where someone came from, and where they got to, then Bartolo Colon's success is tremendous. He grew up very poor in the Dominican Republic. When you are as poor as the Colon family was, you probably don't realize how poor you are, as your whole community is just as poor. Bartolo grew up working 12 hour days picking beans and fruit. As did the rest of his family, and many another community member too.
But look where Bartolo has gone from there. He's a millionaire many times over now. He's a United States citizen, and at 42 years of age, is maybe a better pitcher than ever before. He certainly provides a role model for a New York Mets pitching staff, and Colon is the one man there who's ever experienced the kind of transitions he has. Those flame throwers on the Mets staff, Syndergaard and DeGrom, they're going to get older too someday. I bet they'll never forget the time they've spent with Bartolo Colon. What a great role model Colon must be for young pitchers!

Young Bartolo Colon with the Cleveland Indians

Bartolo Colon with the Cleveland Indians

Colon's career began with the Cleveland Indians organization. He was signed by them in 1993 and sent to A ball, where he did quite well, and won 13 games. This earned him a promotion. By 1997 he had made it to the Indians AAA ball club, and he threw a no-hitter for their AAA team at Coca-Cola Field. Before the 97' season was done Colon would be in the Major Leagues.
Though his numbers were far from good in his initial half season with Cleveland, he would certainly improve. One oddity is Colon has the MLB record for pitches thrown in a single at-bat. In a 1998 game he threw 20 pitches to a batter before finally striking out the tenacious man.
The Cleveland Indians were quite good in 1998, and they made it to the post-season. Colon got a start in the ALCS, and threw a winning complete game, allowing just one run. Colon was a legitimate starting pitcher workhorse in 1998. He went 14-9, with a 3.71 ERA. He threw 204 innings too.
1999 was a breakout season for Colon. He won a lot of games that year, going 18-5 for a .783 winning percentage. He pitched over 200 innings for a second consecutive year, and he only allowed 185 hits in his 205 innings pitched.
In these early years Bartolo Colon was one of the hardest throwing starting pitchers in all of Major League Baseball. His average fastball speed was the fastest in the Big Leagues at least one season. He was officially documented at 100 miles per hour a few times in 1999, and afterwards too. But Colon would tell you he was just a thrower then. He could barely throw any pitch other than a fastball. He was doing better than you would expect for someone who's every pitch was in the same range of velocity.
Colon's best seasons as a power pitcher, i.e., someone who strikes out a lot of batters, came with the Cleveland Indians in 2000 and 2001. Both seasons he struck out over 200 batters. Bartolo was a winning pitcher for Cleveland, and outside of his first half season, always posted a winning record. He had a terrific won/loss record in 2002 for Cleveland, but was traded to the Montreal Expos.

Bartolo Colon with the Montreal Expos

Source

Colon splits 2002 between Cleveland and Montreal, and he wins 20 games in total

Another interesting fact about Bartolo Colon is he is the last player in Major League Baseball to have been a member of the Montreal Expos. The team, of course, does not exist any longer, but long lived pitcher Colon pitches on. Bartolo Colon is a very positive sort of person. In interviews, he has only positive things to say. Perhaps this trait contributes to longevity in athletics? I would suspect so. Colon says he loved playing in Montreal.
He had a terrific year the year he spent divided between Cleveland and Montreal. He went 20 wins and 8 losses, winning ten games in Cleveland, and ten for the former Canadian team. He had also progressed into a guy who a team could rely on to pitch a lot of innings. He had thrown 222 innings his last full season in Cleveland, and the year he split between Cleveland and Montreal, he threw 233 total innings.

2003 with the Chicago White Sox

Colon would spend 2003 with the White Sox of Chicago. He had another winning season. He went 15 wins and 13 losses. Which may not seem so wonderful, but baseball is a team sport. Bartolo had a very respectable earned run average of 3.87. He also pitched a lot of innings, posting a career best total of 242 innings pitched, and 9 complete games.

Bartolo Colon with the Angels

Bartolo Colon with the Angels

Bartolo Colon is a well traveled pitcher. With the Anaheim or Los Angeles (depending on which year you look at it, the team didn't move anywhere, they just changed where they designated the team to be located, even though the location didn't change. Make sense? Of course it doesn't.) Colon would reach the highest and maybe, the lowest points of his long career.
I have no explanation for why teams traded Colon so frequently. It always seemed to work in his favor, and not theirs. But Bartolo is a happy and positive sort of man, and so, who can hurt him? If it is permitted for me to hazard a guess, I would guess his large size makes him appear to be less athletic than he actually is. Call it body bias or something. Colon is a very large man. He is listed as weighing in, now, at 285. I suspect the weight is more or less correct. But Bartolo was always large. Of course he was smaller when he was much younger. He is also only five feet and eleven inches tall. So he does not have what you would call the ideal body for pitching. But then again, Bartolo is still pitching today, and will soon be 43 years old. So maybe MLB scouts should start taking notice that not every great pitcher needs be built like Justin Verlander.
In 2004 Colon had yet another winning season. He's over his career rather reliable for putting out a winning record. He won 18 games and lost 12. This is good for a .600 winning percentage, and when you have that sort of number as a winning percentage, you will certainly find employment in Major League Baseball. The thing was, Bartolo's ERA in 2004 was a rather horrible 5.01. So in that regard, he had a poor season. But again he pitched over 200 innings.
2005 was the season where Bartolo joined the greats in that he won a Cy Young award. He seemed to have everything together that year, and he won 21 games, losing 8. His earned run average in 05' was a much more typical, for him, 3.48. He again pitched over 200 innings, and the total was 222.2. His .724 winning percentage was superlative. As the years had wore on, Colon was much less of a strikeout pitcher, and much more of a control pitcher. He still and always has thrown fastballs at least 90% of the time. Some 4 seem fastballs, some 2 seem sinking fastballs. He does have a change of pace and a slider, but those are seldom used.
In the 2005 post-season Colon partially tore his rotator cuff. So his 2006 season was largely spent on the disabled list, and when he did get to pitch, he wasn't himself. He had a losing record in 2006. This was not a healthy Bartolo Colon. The man affectionately called either Big Bart or Big Sexy, was hurting for the first time in his career. Bartolo would have a better year in 2007 with the Angels, but he again spent a lot of time on the DL, and he posted another losing record.

Big Sexy with the Boston Red Sox

Big Bart and the Boston Red Sox

The Angels gave up on Bartolo Colon, even after he showed them the best he had to offer. A torn rotator cuff is no small matter for an aging pitcher. So in defense of the Angels management, there was reason to believe Colon could not recover.
Perhaps people giving up on him added fuel to his fire? All great athletes love to compete, and Colon came from a poor background in the Dominican Republic, and so how could he ever stop working as hard as he could to play a game as wonderful as baseball, and in the Major Leagues where he made so much money?
The Red Sox of Boston gave Colon a minor league deal. They wanted to see if he still had gas left in his tank, and he showed them he certainly did. He threw a one-hitter for the Red Sox AAA team in Pawtucket. So he was soon on the Big League team. Sometimes a man has to put family matters above all else, as is right, as he should. Bartolo ended his career with the Red Sox by leaving for the Dominican Republic while the season was still on. He had personal matters to attend to. His choice should be respected.

Bartolo Colon had his second sting with the Chicago White Sox in 2009


2009 with the Chicago White Sox

When you think of pitchers in any league of baseball. You need to realize the human body wasn't designed over the millions of years to throw baseballs over, and over, and over again. It is an un-natural sort of thing for a Homo sapien to be spending his time doing. But such is the nature of many sports and many other activities humans are involved in in this ever increasingly complex world we share.
All that to say Colon, as he advanced in years, had more and more problems with his arm and shoulder. In 2009 the White Sox gave him one million dollars to compete for a spot in their starting rotation. Colon had a very nice winning percentage in his career, and a strong work ethic, and stronger desire to play, so the million bucks was a reasonable risk for such a workhorse starting pitcher as Big Bart. He'd had surgery in the off-season to remove bone chips from his pitching elbow. He made the team as the 5th starter in the rotation, but his season didn't go so well as he and the Sox may have liked.

Big Bart goes to New York City, and pitches for the Yankees

Bartolo Colon with the New York Yankees

As so often happens, a player who's been a winner over the course of his career, winds up in New York, playing for the Yankees. Gotham's finest. You love them, or maybe you hate them. That's just how it goes with the Yankees.
The Empire State wasn't where Bartolo spent 2010 in uniform. He didn't play in 2010. He spent the entire season recovering from injuries. But he still burned to play baseball. Such is to be admired. Colon could have surely retired comfortably at any time, but he loved the game. Big Sexy loves baseball. This is how you have a long career, a successful career, and at anything. You keep pursuing it because you love it. Colon would pitch for the Yankees in 2011. He had a controversial stem cell implant. His controversial surgery was scrutinized by MLB brass. Why? The surgery he had usually involved human growth hormone. But the surgeon didn't use it with Bart.
He attempted a comeback. With the Yankees. The biggest team in the Big Leagues. The brightest of all bright lights. Supposedly, Big Sexy showed up to spring training 30 pounds overweight. How can you be 30 pounds overweight when you are always at least 30 pounds overweight? Maybe he was 60 pounds overweight. Doesn't matter, he made the team. No, he would not yet return to winning form. He had some very bright moments, moments where he proved he could still compete. He finished the season with 8 wins and 10 losses and a respectable earned run average of around 4 runs per 9 innings.

Bartolo Colon with the Oakland Athletics


Bartolo Colon, throwing strikes with the Oakland Athletics

The Oakland Athletics gave Colon 2 million bucks to play for them in 2012. As the game of baseball has progressed, it has advanced in statistical analysis in ways the players of old may have struggled to comprehend. Everything is tracked, everything is measured. What is and isn't valuable, truly valuable in terms of success for a player and for a team, these things have been reckoned anew. Colon threw 38 consecutive strikes in a game, it was figured to be the most consecutive strikes a pitcher threw in a game since 1988.
Colon ran into some trouble with Major League Baseball brass. He tested positive for a performance enhancing drug, synthetic testosterone. He was suspended for a whopping 50 games, but that is the standard suspension for a PED positive piss test these days, ask Nelson Cruz. Anyway, the Athletics asked Bartolo back for the next season, and it was agreed upon too.
Pitchers and other players who've lasted as many seasons as had Bartolo at this point in his career, have often had to make many adjustments to make up for their declining skills. You know how it goes, it is possible for a man to do at 35 or even 45 what he could do at 25, but it isn't likely because the same man would have to work much harder as he advances in age to keep up his physical ability. Nolan Ryan is the ultimate example to us all insofar as a man maintaining his physical ability to the utmost late into his middle age years. Nolan Ryan was sort of like T.H. White's Lancelot in this way. But Colon was never truly a strikeout pitcher. A power pitcher - he wasn't ever really one.
He made the All Star team for the 3rd time in 2013. He'd had a wonderfully successful first half of the season. But the entire season was a resounding success. Colon had returned after years of nagging injuries and problems to top form. He recorded a record of 18 wins and 6 losses. His earned run average was a superlative 2.65. The best ERA he'd had since 2002!

Big Bart Colon with the New York Mets

Bartolo Colon and the New York Mets.

What makes the Bartolo Colon story so inspiring is how he's just never ever gave up. Many many pitchers who've probably had more talent have come and gone during Bartolo's career. But Big Sexy is still here, still pitching. And why is that? Because he loves the game more than the others did in a lot of cases. He had more will to continue. Most players don't miss an entire season and come back - except in the instance of Tommy John surgery, and Bartolo hasn't had that injury.
The Mets signed the ever like able Colon for two years at a total of $20 million bucks. He's certainly given the team their money's worth too. With the Mets he's become the 3rd pitcher from the Dominican Republic to eclipse 200 total wins. The other two are in the Hall of Fame, hello? Colon is a good candidate for the Hall of Fame. His longevity and tenacious pitching self make him a possible. He now has more wins than persons like Curt Schilling, who many of us believe deserves to be voted into the Hall of Fame.
Colon did what Colon does in 2014. He pitched over 200 innings and posted a winning record. But his 2015 season was where the real fun came in. Colon, inning eating workhorse that he has so often been, got a decision in his 26th straight game in which he started. The Mets won big in 2015, making it all the way to the World Series. Colon did lose a game in the World Series, but he became the oldest pitcher to ever do so. There is certainly much to be applauded in this distinction of his. He finished the 2015 season at 14 wins and 13 losses. The Mets signed Colon for another round in 2016, and thus far, Big Sexy is still Sexy. I hope to God he does very very well, and comes back again next year. Bartolo Colon is an inspiration to us all, my friends. Lets wish him the best. Thanks for reading.

Big Power Pitching Lefty, David Price

You don't have to be a Red Sox fan to be a little worried about David Price's left arm. I'm worried, but not overly so. As a life long baseball fan I'm invested in seeing David turn in a fine performance again in 2017. It's best he not rush it though.

He's still just 31 years old. He is averaging sixteen wins and two hundred and seventeen strikeouts per year. That's quite good in today's age of limiting pitchers to fairly strict pitch counts.

Five seasons he's had well over two hundred Ks now. With his young age and his skills not in decline, we hope David can catch three thousand Ks and somewhere close to three hundred wins before he hangs it up. It's been said by some there would never be another three hundred game winner. Myself, I'm terribly saddened by such notions, and want to see them destroyed. So I'm rooting for David Price this year, and every year. 

 

Big lefty David Price

David Price is a big shot in today's Major League Baseball

David Price is a baseball celebrity, and in the realms of words on the web, he appears to be an easy going guy. He probably is, when he isn't on the baseball diamond. Between those white lines and standing on that hill though, David Price is a high ranking race horse. You don't bet against him too often, not with your own money.
Price is a big commodity in the baseball community. He is six foot six inches tall, and is well known to pack some of the best left handed stuff on the mound there is. He's been used as a hired gun. A rent an Ace. Hey, baseball players live for the competition, and want to be on the biggest stage, and you often see David standing right there on the mound, center of the screen of your tv.
You also see David working very, very quickly. Besides having elite pitching stuff, David paces the game, and he paces the games to move very fast. You can imagine he is in impeccable physical condition. I'd imagine you imagine right.
I'm no psychologist. Sports or otherwise, I would think the way Price controls the pace of the game, the way he dominates the batter's at bat with his demanding schedule, I would reckon this all affects the batter psychologically. The guy in the batter's box has to subconsciously think, 'gosh damn, this David Price fella isn't messing about, he wants to get this done, and so I must align myself to his scheduling.' So the batter is already in submission when he's rushed to meet David's pace.

David Price at Vanderbilt University


David Price has been a dominating pitcher since he was in high school

David Taylor Price is all American. He's Tennessee tall. Does his home state proud.
He has two older brothers. He says he learned to hate losing any sort of competition for having to compete against his brothers. Isn't it neat how family life sometimes frames our forever? It seems to be working out on David's end.
He grew up a Braves fan. The Braves used to have some fabulous pitching staffs. But David admired David, David Justice. Price pitched in high school, and you can imagine clearly he stood out as a pitcher. He did.
David Price was drafter right out of high school, but he's an intelligent man, and took an academic scholarship to Vanderbilt University instead. That's right, he went to college on a book smarts scholarship. David was so into his schooling at Vanderbilt that he threatened to quit baseball to concentrate on his studies. Well, we're glad that didn't happen. At this point I'm sure David is too.
When you are as tall, and athletically built as is David Price, the expectations are you'll be able to throw baseballs 100 miles per hour, and not just every blue moon, either. David has this rare ability, but he especially did as a younger man than he is now. He overwhelmed college hitters. He racked up large strikeout counts. He got a lot of recognition, and you can be sure Major League scouts were salivating, dreaming they'd be the one to get a feather in their caps for signing David Price.
His freshman and sophomore years were astounding, but his junior year he set records. But the record he broke was one of his own. This is the orbit of David Price at Vanderbilt University. He mostly had to look to himself for competition.

David Price with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays


David Price becomes a very wealthy young man before he even makes the Major Leagues

Realistically, you have to realize David Price knew he would become a wealthy man at a young age for his athletic ability. Persons who are capable of throwing 100 mile per hour fastballs half the night are hard to come by. Persons who are left handed and can do this, even more difficult to find. Price had a goldmine of an arm, and likely knew it. Luckily, he took care of himself, and was also genuinely interested in his studies. So many young athletes these days falter by the wayside, like Josh Hamilton had done. Well, price could wait for his big payday. Gaining intellectual and athletic maturity were what was important.
But when the day came, the day someone would coax David into signing a professional contract, David would become a very rich young man. Would he prove to have been worth that money? Or would he be just another promising athlete who blew out his life? David probably never wondered which sort he would be. He probably knew all along he'd become Cy Young winning Major League superstar hurler.
It was August 15, 2007. The check offered David for a signature and promise to become a part of the Devil Rays organization was a record breaking check. David was used to breaking records, but this one would nearly insure him financial stability. It was certainly more money than most men ever see in their entire lives, were their incomes over the years combined. The total value of his contract was $11.25 million dollars.

Barack Obama meets some stars from the Tampa bay Devil Rays, including David Price


David Price - he's a big deal early in his Major League career

David would breeze through the Devil Rays minor league system as balls he threw would breeze by minor league hitters' bats. His fastball was averaging 98 miles per hour. Too good to waste, his talent debuted in the Major Leagues against the New York Yankees on September 14, 2008.
The post-season rolled around and Price was chosen to stay with the Big League club. He pitched throughout the post season, and got to play in the World Series, despite the paucity of his Major League experience. He was surely a big deal, as he wound up announcing Presidential candidate Barack Obama at a campaign rally in Tampa.
Though Price had been an important part of the Devil Rays 2008 post season team, he'd still only be a rookie in 2009. But his 2009 season went rather well, and he established himself as a Big League starting pitcher. As much money as had been invested into David Price, you can well imagine he was handled with kid gloves, whether they were needed, or not. David started roughly 2/3rds of a seasons worth of games, and he produced a very nice record of 10 wins and 7 loses. Oh, his earned run average was bigger than he'd have liked, and he had fewer strikeouts than innings pitched. But David learns quickly. He would prove what kind of lefty he was in 2010.

David Price 2010-2012. Becoming a Cy Young winner

Price pitched to the level of staff ace in 2010, and his statistics for the season show it. He won 19 games during the regular season, and his earned run average was a sparkling 2.72. The only drawback or lack to his 2010 season was how he was out-dueled twice in the playoffs by the Texas Rangers ace Cliff Lee.
Maybe being outdone by Lee left a lingering psychological scar, for David didn't do nearly so well in 2011. But baseball is a team sport. Price had a losing record for 2011. He won 12 games, but he lost 13. His earned run average inflated, but was still very good, especially for a man who had started 34 games, and pitched over 200 innings. David recorded over 200 strikeouts for the first time in 2011. He finished with 218 Ks in 224.1 innings.
It has long been recognized an athlete comes into his athletic prime around his 27th year. This doesn't always hold to be true, but in the general sense, it is a truth. So in David's 27th year, in 2012, he pitched a Cy Young award winning season.
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays, now just known as the Rays, are a new baseball franchise. Certainly they are new when compared to the older ones, such as the Yankees. Anyway, David won 20 games in the season, becoming the Devil Rays first pitcher to do so. He also tied for MLB lead in wins with the total. Besides the wins, his earned run average was a sparkling 2.54. David won 20 games, but he lost few enough to have the highest winning percentage in the league, He won .800%, struck out another 205 batters, and established himself further as one of the premier left handed starters in baseball.

David Price, traded to the Detroit Tigers in late 2014

David Price is traded to the Detroit Tigers

In 2013 Price wouldn't put up the same sort of performance as he had the previous season. By this point his was a basically automatic All Star selection or recognition. He would spend some time absent the rotation with minor injuries. Throwing baseballs one hundred miles per hour, is an unnatural sort of vocation. Even for a young man, some time will be down time.
He made 27 starts for the Rays in 2013, and he posted a winning record of 10 wins and 8 loses. He would not throw 200 innings in 2013, nor would he strike out 200 batters, and his earned run average would rise to a more human but still very respectable 3.33.
2014 would prove to be a much more productive season for comrade David Price. Though he would spend most of the season with his Tampa Bay Rays, before the season was complete he would find himself traded to another fine, all American city, and fine old baseball organization, the Detroit Tigers.
He started 2014 out strong as ever. At one point he had 5 straight starts of 10 or more strikeouts. David is a harder thrower, usually, than is Chris Sale. But there is the most aptly comparable left handed starter who we can compare with David Price.
On July 31, 2014 a major bit of trading was orchestrated where Price wound up pitching for the Detroit Tigers, joining one of the dominant starting rotations then in the game. What horror it must have been for a team to face Max Scherzer one night, and then David Price the next.
For the season, David's record insofar as wins vs losses go, wouldn't be his most impressive; but his power pitching statistics were astounding. He led the Major Leagues with 271 strikeouts, and a WHIP of just 1.08. David was by then a very established and durable power arm. He also led the Major Leagues in innings pitched, with 248 and 1/3.

David Price with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015


David Price 2015 and beyond

David Price, throughout his career, has been very very consistent. Consistently good. Oh, his won and loss record wasn't always sterling, but this is because baseball is forever a team sport. A pitcher usually does not win a game all on his own. Actually, never.
So teams who want to win will gravitate to someone like Price, who has the great stuff of a rotation ace. He pitches deep into games, and an inning eating starter is forever such a blessing for a team to have.
The Tigers put their money up to show the wanted David as an integral part of the team. They awarded him $19.75 million for the 2015 season in salary arbitration. This was a record breaking salary figure for salary arbitration. This was also not the first time David Price had broken a payout record. But who's counting?
2015 saw David's 5th All Star team. Surely it won't be his last. Again in late July, David was traded to a contending team. He may or may not love the moving from city to city, but he certainly loves the game of baseball, and the competition against the best baseball players on winning baseball teams. He pitched wonderfully down the stretch for the Toronto Blue Jays, a team powered by great bats such as Joey Bautista, and 2015 AL MVP winner Josh Donaldson.
For the 2015 season David would finish with 18 wins and 5 loses, and a very low earned run average of 2.45. He'd finish second in the Cy Young voting behind only Dallas Keuchel. As the 2015 season was a salary arbitration season, David was now free to pursue another huge payout from the free agent free market. He scored large, as you would expect, by signing with the Boston Red Sox for $217 million dollars over seven years. As you imagined, the great power pitcher David Price again set a record for his very high price. God Bless America, and thanks for reading.

Zack Greinke - An Underdog Star In His Prime

So the 2016 season was a disappointment. Well, Zack still had a terrific won to loss ratio, and he's still a very young pitcher, he's in his prime. Zack makes it simple for everyone, he plays baseball to compete against the best there is. 

He's struck out over 200 batters in a season five different times, and his arm is still quite fresh. For a man who's had many struggles and came back from them, it's not for me to bet against him. He's experienced that too. 

It's early in the 2017 season. Too early to make predictions. If you are like me and love to root for an underdog, then lets root for Zack Greinke together.

 

Zack Greinke

Zack Greinke makes baseball look easy

Zack Greinke makes Major League Baseball look easy at times. This is very very deceptive, as playing Major League Baseball has never been even a little bit easy for Zack Greinke. Oh the sport itself is something Zack seems to be born to thrive at playing, and he does thrive at playing it, things are just not always as they seem to be.
From the beginning big things were expected of Zack. I guess I should state where this beginning is though. Zack Greinke was such a prodigious short stop in high school baseball, it is a wonder he ever wound up on a pitcher's mound. Besides being an awesome defensive glove man, Zack Greinke hit for a batting average of around .700.
Major league scouts looked at Zack, and what they saw first and foremost was not his glove or his bat, but his arm. You have to have a great arm to be a shortstop, even in high school. While Zack could have likely made it to Major League Baseball with his glove and his bat, it is his throwing arm we'll be remembering him for.

Zack Greinke, no slouch with a bat in hand

Zack Greinke is a gold glove fielder too

As it is, with Zack Greinke in the National League throwing from the pitching mound, you still get to see Zack's glove work, and you still get to see Zack attack some pitches. He sometimes launches one over the outfield wall. Very often, from that pitching mound, Zack dives like the pure athlete he is and somehow grabs a ball from a line drive, or a vicious grounder. He plays defense on the pitching mound like the shortstop he was in high school. How badass is that? You've got an extra gold glove level fielder when Greinke is on the mound. He might be a better batter than your team's typical pinch hitter. Zack Greinke brings a lot of intangibles to his team's table.
Greinke isn't just a Cy Young winner. The Cy Young is the most coveted trophy for any pitcher in Major League Baseball. There are plenty of other awards though, and each year a pitcher is also given a Gold Glove in each league. Winning a Gold Glove for being the best fielding pitcher of the league is probably just an afterthought for most pitchers, if the idea even crossed one's mind at all, it is a surprise. Greinke isn't an average pitcher though, and the thoughts that ramble across his mind are likely not the thoughts that pass through most other men's. He's won Gold Glove awards, and he'll likely win more of them too.

Zack Greinke - putting his all into every pitch

Zack Greinke - power pitcher with finesse

When Big League scouts go somewhere to look at a player they are looking at their skill set, sure, but they are looking hard at the player's body. You can tell from the photos that Zack isn't exactly the most large and intimidating physical specimen on the diamond. Sometimes size is over rated.
How big is he? Is he still growing? How large a man do we think he will be when he has reached his full size? Let's take him for an X-ray and see if his bones are done growing.
So Zack Greinke is six foot two inches, and supposedly weighs one hundred and ninety five pounds. In Major League Baseball, you will do well to take the weight given out for a player with several grains of salt. True story - Nolan Ryan was about the size of Zack Greinke when he was young, and Nolan was throwing over one hundred miles per hour all evening long the nights he took the mound.
Like many another veteran pitcher, Greinke came up to the big leagues throwing big time fastballs. It was 95 miles per hour and more every time he tossed the heat towards the plate. Sometimes that fastest fastball business is wasted energy, you see it every time a batter fouls off a few in a row. Would it not be better to induce the batter into hitting a grounder to your team's amazing shortstop?
I'm just like every other baseball fanatic, I love to see that strikeout, and I adore a pitcher who records ten or more strikeouts in a start regularly. Zack Greinke used to do that, and he still does that, but to survive in Major League Baseball you better have alternate strategies, and Greinke can win the game with more than just mid 90s fastball heat.

Greinke delivers a pitch

Zack Greinke's stuff, his assortment of pitches and pitching style.

So what kind of stuff is Zack throwing to hitters? He's got that fastball, the four seem one which is thrown with the most velocity, and he can pump it in there between 91 to 96 miles per hour. He'll save the best heat for the critical situations, say, like when there is a runner in scoring position and he needs to strike someone out. He also throws the two seam fastball, and this is slightly slower and sinks down and in towards a right handed batter when thrown by a right handed pitcher. The two seam fastball is ideal for inducing ground ball outs. If you've got a runner on first and it is an ideal double play situation, Zack will try to cause the batter to knock that two seam fastball right at his infielders, and get that double play.
Junk balls, or curve balls? Ol' Zack has those, and they are good ones. While with the Dodgers a team facing Clayton Kershaw one night, and then Zack Greinke the next night would be completely worn out with the heat and those breaking balls. Nobody has a better curve or slider than Kershaw, but Greinke has finer control than almost anyone else does with all of his pitches. Like Kershaw, Greinke throws the curve ball at a couple different speeds, there's the faster one and the slow lollipop curve. This all said, Greinke's slider is the best strikeout pitch for him. He gets 51% of his strikeouts on that slider.
Zack's pitching style and assortment of pitches combined with his superb strikeouts to walks ratio puts him in a tight comparison to none other than king Felix Hernandez. Hernandez is much the same sort of pitcher as Zack, and they're running a nice tight race towards MLB immortality. Like Hernandez, Zack Greinke also throws a cutter and a change of pace, but Greinke isn't a change of pace artist as is Hernandez or Cole Hamels, Greinke is most effective with his superlative control, his fastballs, and his breaking pitches.
A very cerebral and intelligent man, Zack Greinke approaches pitching as a sort of scientist. He's well known to study advance scouting reports extensively. He's a complete athlete, Sir Zack Greinke, he'll beat you with his physical ability, and with his mind.

Zack Greinke and a struggle on the field

The struggles of Zack Greinke

I mentioned up top how Zack Greinke makes Major League Baseball, one of the toughest sports on the planet look easy, but that this was all deceptive. This stuff is not easy for Zack Greinke, We're talking about a man who can pitch so well he's one multiple Cy Young awards for pitching, so how can this be hard? Well, have you ever imagined yourself regularly performing something for two or three hours at a time in front of forty to fifty thousand people? That's just the numbers of persons who may be present physically to watch Greinke perform, that doesn't count the millions who may be watching at home on television. A Major League Baseball player has his every single move scrutinized by the American mass media, and then there are those who are watching overseas too. Also watching every breath you take during a game are the coaches, the other players, the family, the friends. The pressures of all this are something someone as thoughtful as Zack is - it can be nearly unbearable.
Zack Greinke suffers from social anxiety disorder. There's nothing really so disordered about it, the pressure to perform can be crushing, and for Zack, it was at times. He's walked away from baseball. He just up and left. Social anxiety isn't always about the thousands or millions of persons watching, it can cause misery to someone in a group of three persons. Zack used to have great difficulty even among his team mates. If the 2015 season showed us anything though, it is that Greinke is recovered, and back on top of his game.

Zack Greinke signs with the Arizona Diamondbacks

Ultra Competitor, Zack Greinke

Zack Greinke makes a lot of money. He does not, however, play in the Major Leagues to make money. Greinke is a guy who's walked away from more money than the most of us could ever imagine. He's walked away from millions and millions of dollars offered him to play baseball in places like New York City, or Boston. His distaste for interviews is nearly legendary. Yes, Zack put on quite a good show in Los Angeles, but he walked away from huge money there to go to smaller market Arizona.
Zack plays baseball because he lives to compete. He could have been a professional tennis player, he could have been a professional golfer. He no longer toys with those sports even for fun, because Zack lives to compete against the best there is at a sport, and for no other reason. Why waste time playing golf when you aren't competing against the best golfers in the world? This is how Zack thinks, and this is what makes him one of the finest starting pitchers in the Major Leagues today.
So what is next for the man who's already won a Cy Young award, and has come back from so many personal struggles? Hopefully, a lot more baseball. Zack has had six seasons of over 200 innings pitched. He's had five seasons where he struck out more than two hundred batters. Twice the great Zack Greinke has led the league with the lowest earned run average, including a sterling 1.66 ERA in 2015. Don't be too surprised if Greinke doesn't throw a no-hitter and win another Cy Young going forward in 2016. I wish him the best, and so should you, and baseball lovers everywhere. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Corey Kluber, Ace of the Cleveland Indians

Another right handed ace out of Texas, Corey Kluber

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Cleveland Indians Ace, Corey Kluber

Corey Kluber is the ace of the Cleveland Indians starting rotation. There aren't many Major League rotations he'd not be the ace of. The spot is all his, and has been for the past two straight seasons. Don't let Kluber's 2015 season fool you. Kluber is a man with a mission, and a love for the game.
Corey Kluber has some odd statistics. Baseball is a team sport though, so when a pitcher wins a huge lot of games, the pitcher can never take all the credit. It is the same when a pitcher loses a lot of games. So Kluber led the American League in loses in 2015. This is true, he'd have been the staff ace though, had he pitched the entire season for the Texas Rangers, or even the Toronto Blue Jays. Kluber just had the misfortune of pitching the season for the Cleveland Indians.
Corey Kluber had a slow start to the 2015 season, but his slow start doesn't change the fact he had some seriously limp wood in the batting orders in the games he pitched. Carlos Santana led the team with a measly 18 home runs. There wasn't much inspiration coming from the bats. So bad it was that 2014 American League Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber went from winning the most games in 2014, to losing the most games in the American League in 2015.

Corey Kluber the intimidation look

Corey Kluber has electric stuff, gets a lot of strikeouts

Corey Kluber isn't a strikeout pitcher in the normal sense of the way we think of them. Kluber is a guy who gets a lot of strikouts even though he is more or less pitching to contact, that is to say he's pitching with the idea in mind that it is wiser and faster to get you out by inducing a ground ball to one of the Indians infielders. He's a power sinker ball pitcher with good command and a good curve ball, and because his low to mid 90s sinker moves so much, he gets a big combination of dinky ground balls to the infield, and strikeouts too.
Does Kluber throw the four seam fastball? Of course he does, and those are the ones which will reach the higher numbers on the radar gun Sometimes a strikeout is truly preferable to a ground ball, Kluber has the ability to go either direction. He's a lot like Felix Hernandez in his approach, but Kluber is more into power pitching than King Felix is, and so Kluber doesn't rely so much on the change of pace or change-up. Then again, few have the change up of a Felix Hernandez or a Cole Hamels.
The Corey Kluber curve-ball? It's one of the best right handed curve balls in baseball. Corey doesn't throw a big lollipop curve ball like Clayton Kershaw will often do, instead, Kluber throws mide 80s power curves down in the strike zone. These Kluber curve balls break hard and fast and nearly straight down, resulting in a hell of a lot of swings and misses. Watching highlight video of Kluber and his power curve, you will see a lot of truly awesome hitters looking overwhelmed and over-matched. How good is it, I mean, really - compared to the rest of the American League, how good is Kluber's curve-ball? Well, it's thought by American League managers to be second best in the American League. What is odd to me is they talk about the horizontal break of the pitch. Kluber can make the pitch break in different ways by varying his arm angle, and he does this frequently.

Corey Kluber - Becoming the ace

Corey Kluber is clearly overpowering to American League hitters. This can be demonstrated not purely from his high strikeout totals, which exceed a rate of one per inning, but also by the hits per inning totals - he averages less than a hit per inning. Kluber also walks few batters. His strikeout to walk ratio is very good, and has been consistent over the past few seasons. Now in his prime, Corey will turn thirty years old just after the season begins. Corey Kluber is six feet and four inches tall. He has exceptionally good pitches, and has proven himself over the past two seasons to be a workhorse pitcher.
Cleveland has poor offense, and their defense is rather lackadaisical too, or at least they were each of the past two seasons. Some projections for the coming 2016 season favor Cleveland for AL Central pennant winners. I hope this is true simply for the sake of Mr. Corey Kluber, and his terrific right arm. If things go south for the Indians and they appear to be in a rebuilding phase, what a great load of prospects the team could get in return for a trade of Kluber to a contender chasing a pennant.
Corey Kluber may well be regarded as a late bloomer, only truly having his first good year when he had his first great year - but when you've got it all together as he does now, you don't just up and lose it unless you fall into poor habits or an injury. Not to draw too many comparisons, but his size and his pitches recall Dwight Gooden, especially with his curve ball and its dominion over hitters. Gooden made it big early and fizzled out, Kluber never became an ace until he was at the age where Gooden was fizzling out. I'm betting on Corey K sticking around a while.
They call him Klubot in the dugout and the clubhouse. He's a local boy to me, from Coppell, Texas. There's a nice long list of powerful right arms who made it big in the Big Leagues from the great state of Texas. Corey is another in the long line. He's made the list. His amateur career wasn't so sterling. He didn't elicit big wows from scouts at a young age. Corey Klubot Kluber had to work hard to make it to professional ball.
Being picked in the 4th round of a Major League draft isn't something to sneeze at though, neither is a $200,000 signing bonus. Many a man more highly regarded early on, and more highly paid from a young age never panned out at all. Though the draft was in 2007, Corey wouldn't make it to the Majors until 2013, and that wasn't with the team who drafted him. The Padres had traded him to the Indians. His Big League beginnings were auspicious, he'd rack up some high strikeout totals, win Player Of The Week for the American League.
In 2014 he'd be a regular rotation guy. He'd win Player Of The Week award again, and then Pitcher of the Month in September. He'd tie fellow power pitcher Max Scherzer for wins, and come in second to only David Price in strikeouts with his 269. Two hundred and sixty nine strikeouts is a superlative and sparkling power total. In a game in 2015, a trying season for the Indians, Kluber would on the 13th of May strikeout 18 batters, tying the legendary Bob Feller for the team record.
2016 was another great year for Kluber. He proved all the loses the previous season were just a fluke, and that he was still an Ace. He's still a Cy Young contender. He showed more persons at once than he'd ever showed before during the historic World Series against the Cubs. Sure, the Indians lost, but Kluber put on a show for what mastery on the mound was all about. Expect big things from Kluber in 2017.