I'm a sucker for optimism!
Dr. D had failed to notice that Smith was one of 4 pitchers, both leagues, to score over 2 WAR from the bullpen. There was Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, some 13K guy for the Indians :- ) and him. As a Twins GM once said after losing to a 19-loss Scott Erickson in arb: "Some guys had better years than I remember them having."
No, more seriously. Smith did wind up looking pretty cappuccino-ed out during his first Go at closer. But there's a real shortage of 11.83-strikeout righties, and an even greater shortage of 11.83-strikeout guys with invisible pitches. Smith goes into GM Detecto's 2016 bullpen as a white-knuckle short guy, a guy who will lose games, but still: a short guy. Jeff Nelson wasn't airtight, either.
DiPoto right away made noises about liking Tom Wilhelmsen to close. So he's willing to back off the Leverage Thumbscrews on Smith by a quarter turn. The Cardinal Way, baby.
The Bartender had cruddy stats in 2015, and cruddy stats in September 2015. Leave us attend to the following Jerry DiPoto quote: "STATS GET OVERBLOWN." You will have noticed that algebraic equations are not yet merging your family automobile onto the freeway. Dr. D approves of Jerry DiPoto's awareness that the computer of the human brain is more complex than the Windows machine sitting on the brain's desk.
James' Eighth Law is the GM's dozen Big Decisions that determine whether he will have a good year. In Seattle, we have grokked that choice of closers might conceivably fall into this category. If Wilhelmsen is installed, and goes 38-for-43 closing games, there's your 117 wins right there.
Truthfully, if DiPoto could simply "fix" the bullpen, that might get him 90% of the way back to playoff contention. If there's one thing Dr. D (and Kam Chancellor) have learned in 30 years, it's that the line between success and failure can be more slender than people think it is. Pick the right closer and get Furbush back. Collect your 90 wins. Acknowledge the applause. Might not be as farfetched as you think. DiPoto, as with Dr. D you realize, is more at home when talking about pitchers than about hitters. And DiPoto was himself an even better pitcher than Dr. D was.
But at SSI, we'll take some general improvements to go along with the bullpen, too.
His fastball would have been one of 18 in the majors over 96 MPH, if Zych had thrown enough innings to qualify for the leaderboards. Notice anything about that MPH list, by the way? Of the top 17 fastballs, only two (2) were thrown by AL relievers. :: huh ::
As we have preached, a "short-arm" fastball is effectively even a bit faster than the gun would indicate. Zych's stride-and-jump also seem to be plus, even if not quite Carter Capps-level. So just based on the overwhelming fastball alone, this guy would be penciled onto GM Detecto's pitching staff, being as he decided to start throwing strikes in 2015. (He made this decision in March 2015, not August 2015.)
But for those who are starved for baseball images, here are three tasty Zych sliders for yer, teaching AL batters three brand-new KINDS of pain:
Zych whuffs Vogt on a Michael Pineda slider. Sheer change speed death on a stick, b'wana, with mouth sewn shut on the shrunken head. Zych throws that pitch every time, he gets a strikeout every time.
Correa puts a garbage swing on a Carson Smith slider breaking off the plate. It's moments like this that you are tempted to Best Bet this dude.
And here's a slider that does both of the above things. Zych's body language is okay by us, too.
It is possible that Zych is the next big thing in short relief. But either way, if he's going to throw 96+ ahead in the count, with 40% sliders, he WILL be effective. You can't show me anybody who isn't.
John Benson Fantasy Baseball Maxim: a 2016 player IS whoever you last saw him as, in 2015. (You can win a mediocre fantasy league by doing nothing but isolating on second-half stats. Or so we've heard.)
Who we saw WBC-san as, just now, was a starting pitcher with 8.3 whiffs and 0.7 walks in September. At this point, even Dr. D is mystified a little bit. How do you walk 0-plus, with the same three meh pitches you've always used, and dominate? Greg Maddux, baby.
Here's a great Sully article on Iwakuma's no-hitter. WBC-san's winning routine involves an Orel Hershiser-like control to get ahead in the count with tough pitches ... and even when that doesn't work, he "pitches backwards" by throwing change speed in hitters' counts. That is wonderful if you can be sure of throwing a strike while releasing the pitch with a hard twirl to it at the end.
And we're not even getting into the "pitchability" factor, his gift for getting into batters' heads and staying there. Jamie Moyer once said, the only reason he had a career was because American* hitters cannot stand to have a fastball thrown by them. Iwakuma accepts that baseball is a game of precision, and that a fastball is NOT inherently the coin of its realm.
Bill James once said, there are a few pitchers like this -- as long as they can raise their arms above their shoulders, they'll get people out.
No fizzlers today,