POTD Jo-El, template

Last year, in 2009, Jo-El came up with a new* pitch.  This pitch is an 88-90 mph two-seam screwball.

Jo-El son of Kal-El used to get a good solid -1.5 runs per 100 pitches on his fastballs, meaning that if he threw 100 fastballs in a row (not really!) you would expect his ERA to be 1.5 runs worse than league average. 

Actually if he did this, threw 100 fastballs in a row, he'd have given up 23 runs in a game, but you know what I mean.  His ERA on fastballs -- assuming he mixed them in and threw them 55% of the time -- was about 6.00.  As you can imagine, pitchers like this are "smoke and mirrors" MLB vets, out there surviving by tricking people.


=== The Screwball is the New Two-Seamer ===

But in 2009, Pineiro found a way to throw his two-seam (slower, swerving) fastball with a huge swerve,and drop, in to RH hitters.  I mean the action on this pitch is surreal.

Here is a game vid in which you can see the weird downward, screwball-type action of his 88-90 fastball.

Here is another, vs. Hou in September, in which you can see both the swerve and the awe-inspiring command.

Here is a vid from the following week in which Jo-El shows off the offspeed stuff, and a couple of extra feet on the FB, that he doesn't even need any more.

A RHP throwing a 2-seamer that drops and fades away, that is the pitch that LH hitters crush.  It drops out onto the barrels of their bats.  But Joel's pitch had so much bite -- apparent movement, anyway -- that he crushed even lefties with it.


So, in 2009, Jo-El's run value on the screwball went from -1.5 to +1.1 .... despite the fact that he threw it a jaw-dropping 71% of the time.  (It's harder to keep a high run value when the batters know what you're going to throw, so run values get worse as a pitch is used more.)


=== BB's and GB's ===

Batters tended not to miss the screwball -- they tended to top it weakly.   As a result, Jo-El walked ... wait for it ...

27 batters in 215 innings.

So he gave up a lot of homers?  ... he gave up 11 homers.  All season.


As Dave Allen pointed out, this made Jo-El a lab specimen for "K- BB+ GB+" limits of performance.


=== The Template ===

Every once in a while, over the last 35 years, we've seen the occasional pitcher that has come up with a pitch that moves in a way that batters aren't used to.   When Scott Erickson first came up, he was like this.  He had two-and-a-half years of fame before the batters tracked the pitch trajectories and the bug hit the windshield.

I remember reading an article by some pitcher -- Calvin Schiraldi, maybe -- where he described playing catch with a friend, dinking around, and the friend complained, "hey, stop doing that.  I can't catch it."   Schiraldi (?) said, uh, what?   And using his weirdly moving fastball, starred briefly.  

He also described, the next year, taking his player check to the local bank "and the teller literally screamed when she saw it.  Imagine how I felt."

Pitchers who come up with weird 88 mph swerveballs do tend to benefit from novelty.  For one-to-three years.  That's the fact Jack. 

When I was a kid, for two years people were wondering whether Fernando Valenzuela could pitch a season undefeated, 20-and-0.  In his first two years, his screwball was "the scourge of the National League" as SI put it at the time.

Chien-Ming Wang, of course.


These "weird trajectory" guys can push their glory runs out for 5 or more seasons, if they will accept jobs as relievers, as Sparky Lyle and Tug McGraw did.

If I were Wang, I'd change leagues and move to the bullpen.  But the money is a problem, then.


part 2


Taro's picture

At 2/$15mil I would absolutely sign Joel. No more than 2 years though.
Normally I'd be concerned with the unusually low K/9, but that is just a factor of people topping his one-seam. Joel also improved his SwS% month by month as the year went on. In 2nd half of the season he had a 5.2 K/9. I wouldn't sweat too much over the NL to AL conversion as the novelty won't wear off in a new league. He'll just turn into a high 3 ERA guy as opposed to low 3s.
In the short-term Joel is a good bet to be succesful. I like him at 2 years, anything more than that and hes risky.

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