Q. This 85% fastball challenge prescription ... does this contradict your complaint about Brandon League "not thinking out there"? Thought you didn't like predictable 1-0 fastballs.
A. It doesn't, thanks for asking. Contradict anything, that is.
Stephen Pryor's fastball passes a point of critical mass. It's a Goose Gossage, an Armando Benitez fastball. Pryor's fastball is overwhelming; Brandon League's is most definitely not.
Q. Why? Both fastballs are around 97 MPH.
A. League's fastball reads 97 sometimes, but it's thrown from a low arm slot, it's thrown EVERY BLINKIN' PITCH at knee level, and it sinks. The result is a flat sidearm fastball that "keeps the bat in the zone a long time." The hitter dips his back knee and then the bat is on a plane with the pitch the entire time it's in the air.
Pryor's fastball comes over the top, runs downhill and then WHOOOOP shoots back up off the BMX jump. It's more reliably fast. It's a different conversation.
"Thinking" for Pryor involves this: (1) moving the fastball around the zone the best he can. (2) Throwing as hard as he possibly can. (3) Making sure he gets strike one. (4) Throwing 3-4 sliders an inning, total, all right on the black or preferably off the black. Like the first two sliders he threw to Viciedo.
Q. Will batters swing at a slider even though the advance scouting says he likes to throw it outside the zone?
A. The strikeout of Konerko, how far was that off the plate? About two first downs' worth?
If an Aroldis Chapman throws a ball 100 MPH, remember, that adds seven feet to the "length" of the pitch. Ever been to a batting cage? Even a broken-down old pug like me can hit 90, 95 MPH if the speed is the same.
You hear the pop and you swing your bat in rhythm and the ball's there. That's what they mean by "cheating," simply swinging in time to the release of the ball. ... now picture yourself swinging in time to 90 MPH, pop, swing ... except this one was 100 MPH. You know how far it was past your bat? 7 feet!
Now remember, also, the hitter doesn't get to decide to swing when the ball's 10 feet away. Even if he can swing in 0.20 seconds -- one eyeblink to get your bat into the strike zone!! -- he's got to decide whether to swing when the ball is 30-40 feet away from him.
Ever watch the final strikeout of Randy Johnson's no-hitter? The ball was like 7 feet off the ground. Joe Morgan, commenting on Randy Johnson in the playoffs in 1995, remarked sadly "You just don't have enough time to decide whether to swing. You. Just. Don't. Have. Enough. Time.
Q. Don't get beat with your second-best pitch, eh...
A. The above is a baseball cliche that, a lot of the time, sends Dr. D screaming out into the night... Tom Wilhelmsen will crack off a 12-6 curve and somebody will line a GWRBI. You'll hear somebody say "you need to throw your best pitch there" ... what is TW supposed to do, throw the same pitch every time?
But every cliche has a grounding in truth, and Stephen Pryor is the guy they were thinking of here. His fastball is amazing, just amazing, and the other pitches need to run with ribbons around the maypole of his fastball.
Pryor don' have a Daniel Bard slider, and he don' have no bidness throwing waist-high sliders down the middle ... or at the very least, he's got no business "showing" a batter his slider twice in one AB. Not for strikes. One called strike, first pitch, MAYbe... any further sliders gotta be where they can't hurt him. Make them beat him on the fastball. Don't worry, they won't.
Slap me silly, once Pryor goes to the 12 fastball, 3 slider pitch mix, all the sliders on the black or off the black, they're going to make new rules.