Cross-Check: Kevin Millwood, March 2012


Q.  What exactly is this "innings eater" phrase?  Sounds like neither the reader nor the writer understand what they're talking about.

A.  In the second game of 2012, in Japan:  if you could just spot the A's 4.5 runs and take that, would you?  One coin flip, they get either 4 or 5 runs, and then the Mariners bat nine times.  Would you take that?

Maybe out of the #5 spot, you would.  And for some teams, 180 league-average innings that are simply removed from the pre-season equation, that can be helpful.  Many teams have pitching problems to solve, the worst of which are at the #4-5 slots.  If they could cut their losses and write off a 4.50, 5.00 performance there, they'd love to do so.


Q.  What can a 37-year-old "innings eater" do, that Charlie Furbush cannot?

A.  He can step around land mines.  In individual at bats.  He knows, batter by batter, the ways in which he can get hurt.  He steers around those.

Suppose you're Albert Pujols and Charlie Furbush is pitching.  He misses to go 2-0, and now you're looking fastball, and you get one ...

Suppose you're Albert Pujols, and Kevin Millwood is pitching.  He doesn't go 2-0.  Every pitch, you get a 25% chance to guess the pitch right.  Cut fastball?  Whoops, here's the change curve.  Okay, next pitch... fastball outside?  Whoops, jam pitch.

You only get so many guesses before six innings are up.  Even when you hit the ball, there's a 70% chance it's at a fielder.  Six innings go by, and you just didn't get enough good swings.  You're down 5 to 3 and there was nothing to be done about it.


Innings eaters also don't walk people.  Lots and lots of games! are decided by cheap walks that turn into rallies.  Saunders' double last night came after two cheap walks.  Kevin Millwood walked a grand total of 8 men in his 9 starts last season, 54 innings.


Q.  What were Millwood's keys, coming into the spring?

A.  There were three basic iterations of Millwood:

LO - his arm was thrashed and he was topping out at 86 mph.

MID - the version we saw yesterday.

HI - He's sharp, locating his pitches with precision ... think about the career years of an Esteban Loaiza or Shigetoshi Hasegawa.

Millwood hits 88, 89 MPH with no problem.  So, thankfully, he skips over the LO scenario.

But neither was he sharp.  He walked three guys early, but that's another thing about 37-year-olds:  they can coach and correct themselves on the fly.  Younger guys can't.  Millwood was lucky early.  He found his release point quickly and by the 3rd inning, he was throwing a good game.

Damage containment.  Good on him.  :shrug:


Q.  What was the preseason scouting report on Millwood, again?

A.  He is an unusual variety of innings eater:  at 37, he can still throw a good cut fastball and a good slider.  Those elbow ligaments are made of cowhide, I guess.

He throws a legitimate five pitches, FB-Cutter-Slider-Change-71 Curve.  He threw none of them very well last night, except the 71 change curve was good.  The problem for hitters is that he mixes the speeds and locations and they just don't get real great swings.

I was surprised to see that his cutter wasn't too good.  That's what keeps the lefties off him, but he made do by nibbling with the FB and showing the 12-6 curve.


Q.  Millwood is worth a coupla months as a Mariner?

A.  For a while there, I was real scared that they were going to pay Jeff Suppan for two years.  As an alternative to Jeff Suppan, we're all tickled pink at the acquisition of Placeholder Suppan.


Q.  Wedge said that Millwood "is a leader for position players, which is rare."

A.  The clubhouse obviously loves, loves, loves Sheriff Millwood, his gravelly voice, and his Old West facial hair.  Somehow he makes the Sam Elliott persona work in a very likable way.

Millwood is obviously a fine leader at this point, a legitimate Team Captain type.  But here is one specific case in which I do not buy the idea that Clubhouse Chemistry (TM) would mean any extra bases gained or lost.  But if it sets the tone for a slightly more relaxed, happier work environment, we'll take Wedge's word for it.

On TV, Wedge said that Millwood gets a thumb on the scale for his leadership, but Wedge also sounded very non-committal about Millwood's spot.  See, this is one thing they've got to consider:  if Millwood is beloved, and doing a good job, what is the reaction then, when they flush him in June for silver-spoon, straight-A's young surgeon Danny Hultzen?

It's a puzzle, the answer to which is well beyond my own perception.  Millwood can still eat innings.  Do you want him to? 

Does the Mariners' 2012 equation call for 180 innings written off at a 4.50 ERA?


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