Pepper, Fall Classic version

Flip:  Kikuchi Yusei headlines in connection with, guess which MLB team.  Well, admittedly, along with six others.

Chop:  I can't imagine that Kikuchi is going to meet with twelve slaving ships, then seven rich dukes, and then turn and ask for the shackles, can you? 

The article is describing a Clayton Kershaw 2.0.  I am hugely skeptical of high school pitchers taken in the first round, and was of Kershaw in relative terms.  But a picture is worth 1,000 words, and Kershaw has me thinking that I'll take all of the LH, 96-mph teenagers you got.


Kershaw's meltdown tonight, complete with a 4-pitch walk of Hamels and all the trimmings, was amusing, but the kid is one of the most valuable properties in the majors.  And though Dr. D went contrarian on Aroldis Chapman, he's got to admit that 95-mph LH fastballs have freaky high pitch values.

I dunno.  Would you rather have Chapman and the bling, or Kikuchi and the vaunted Japanese discipline-SAT combo?   Tougher call than you might think.


Flip: also has some vanilla ice milk thawed on our hero Dusty.  

Chop:  This kid is the whole kit-and-kaboodle, other than that  in an arm-wrestling contest, Ichiro would throw him over the table feet-up. (Seriously.)  Check those forearms:  Popeye or Olive Oyl?  You be da judge.

Can the kid eventually add the 15-25 homers that would transmogrify the .400 OBP into All-Star impact?  Dr. D is in hand-wringing mode over the power.

You can .400-OBP and steal 25 bases and have an impact, naturally.  But we bought a bill of goods that specified gap power, if not broken-bat grand slams.  The difference between power and not-power is going to be the difference between Brett Butler and Capt Jack's first homebred Ryan Braun monster-flip card.

Ack-ly might hit the ball hard.  But I'm sweatin' it, till he does.  :- )


Flip:  Right after we noodled the above, our next stop found that Kirby Arnold was on the dogpile.

Chop:  In the same article, the Mariners talked about Aumont's "mechanical inconsistencies."  It seems we've decided that if a pitcher throws the same ball the same way twice in a row, he might be able to put the ball where he wants it.  I'm willing to go along with this theory, although I haven't seen the correlations published on Fangraphs. 

.... meanwhile, everybody with the Mariners studiously and grimly avoids mentioning the one major thing that Aumont does do wrong, which is decelerate like Wile E. Coyote on his Acme Rocket meeting the telephone pole.

Look, Phillippe Aumont has a Francisco Rodriguez arm.  The kid has ape-like leverage, moves like a basketball player as opposed to a tall nerd, and throws a swerveball that is going to get an MLB rule passed against it.  He could probably outperform Corky in Safeco right now.

I hope the coaches figure out what they wanna do soon, 'cause it ain't many teenage pitchers drafted top 10.  This is one of 'em.  When Aumont gets to Safeco, he's liable to go Carnage on a few pesky rodent stRangers.  Let's get a move on, there.


Dr D


Taro's picture

Kikuchi tops out at 96mph (sits more around 89-90 from what I've seen), but his velocity could improve in time. Chapman tops out at 102 mph. :-)
Its an interesting question. Do you take the projectable talent+makeup or do you take the uber-talent+?makeup.


...I don't think Aumont's mechanics have only one flaw.  I think, like Emiliano Fruto before him, he has a completely unrepeatable delivery that includes significant inconsistancies in landing position, release point, arm angle and weight transfer.  Certainly, if the coaches could get him to land more softly on the ball of his foot and keep that knee bent, it would be easier to fix his other problems, but I think you're wrong about that being a two-bullpen-session quick fix that should be easy to implement.  He's been throwing that way since he was in little league...I'm not sure you have it quite accurately pictured how difficult it is to override your instinctual movements even if your instinctual movements are bad for you.
All of which is to say...I dont think this coaching staff's inability to fix the straight landing leg thing is an indictment of their qualifications as a staff.  I'm quite certain they've noticed it.  They can't be unobservant enough not to have seen leaps right out at you even from the bleachers.


Felix was signed at age 16 in 2002 for a $0.71M bonus.
Jharmidy DeJesus (the first international free agent signed at 18 that I found): $1.0M bonus in 2007.
Yuni signed an MLB FA deal after leaving Cuba in 2005 at age 23 for a $3.65M package, of which $1.3M was bonus (he then got an extension in 07).
Kershaw was drafted #7 in 2006 and got a $2.3M bonus.
1. Chapman's asking price is not just high, but surely he'll want an MLB contract out of the box.
2. Kikuchi's price will have to be a lot lower.  He's an international FA at 18 with no pro or even international experience.  I don't see how he would get an MLB contract.  He differs from the usual situation only in that he has a serious opportunity to make good money playing baseball in his home country, which is not true of the Latin American prospects.  He'd have to be "bought out" of Japan in the same way that Kershaw was "bought out" of his scholarship to Texas A&M.
Good hot stove fun to follow both bidding wars, and would be happy to see the Ms strike a good deal with either one.  Kikuchi just seems a lot more likely, to me.

shields's picture

As said before, he's not a flame thrower.  He sits around 90 and has some decent secondary stuff. I think he's getting more attention for potentially thwarting the Japanese draft, which makes him seem like a better prospect than he is.  He's good and I'd love to have him, but I definitely don't see Kershaw 2.0. Kershaw sits consistently 93-94, is a big guy at 6'3 230 and has a dynamite curve.
Can Kikuchi hold that low 90s velo?  Tiny build, high elbow.. let's see if he can stay healthy by the time he makes it to the bigs.


So he's 4-for-9 with a walk while making the transition to pro ball and wood bats in what Z called a "AA all-star league" -- but, yeah, they're all singles.
He played CF Wed. and DH Thur.
And our man Lt. Nick Hill went 3.0 IP with 1 ER, 4 H, 2 K, 2 BB.
Strasburg goes tonight, and there is the possibility of a Strasburg-Ackely matchup next week.


The most interesting comment from the Arnold piece in the Herald:
The Mariners required their minor league pitchers this year to throw the changeup 15 percent of the time, up from 10 percent last year. "We feel it is such an important pitch for all our pitchers,” Grifol said.
I remember Sullivan lamenting that Morrow was throwing so many changeups in AAA this year while somewhat neglecting his curve ball. I guess now we know why.
Didn't Price insititute something similar when he was here?


Is the kind of thing we fixed in the aikido dojo with five or six reps.  Believe me, we could do it with Aumont also.
The process is brief but it has to be exact.  You start with super-slo-mo, you put something in the heel of his shoe, you teach him to do it right and at the end of 30 reps, he can't even REMEMBER how he used to do it.
Not just my opinion.  Good coaches will tell you that a fix done right, happens quick, and then the athlete can't remember the old way any more.
But ya, it's very possible that he has other stuff it would be nice to work on.  As does, say, David Aardsma.  :- )


The M's emphasis on the circle change goes back at least to the 1999 season. 


We see a lot of this "touches 96" report, which is what the report was on Kershaw out of high school.
But Taro being on-site, I'll go with the Champ.


Baseball players aren't martial artists, Doc.  Rarely are they aware enough and disciplined enough to be taught in the same way that a martial arts student who has spent his time learning body discipline can be.  It may be true that a sensai could fix Aumont's kind of problem inside a week...I don't think it's that simple in the baseball world, though.  Just because SOMETIMES the light goes on quickly (like it did for Randy Johnson) doesn't mean it always will.

glmuskie's picture

Kinda agree with you both actually.  It can be a quick fix, like in RJ's case, or Washburn's phantom stick-out-your-rear, or Felix' more extreme rotation, tweaks that do not impact the rest of the delivery but just improve it.  Or, it may throw off a player's whole delivery - maybe even only mentally - and be a longer time coming before it 'takes'.
Probably it depends on the player, the coach, and the thing being 'fixed'.


Because they understand that all sports movement begins with footwork and weight transfer.
Sadaharu Oh was a disciple of O-Sensei.  Ask any accredited kinesiologist about how many common principles carry across from one sport to another.
I could understand if you objected to applying kotegaeshi to a slider. 
But we're talking about lowering the CG and stepping on the ball of the foot vs. the heel.  You're saying that those are baseball-specific problems?!   C'mon.  You sound like Eddie O'Brien on this one :- )
Any athlete, in any sport, needs to get his footwork and his CG movement straightened out.  And an aiki-shihan is PRECISELY the right person to help with this.  That's why Oh went to O-Sensei.


If an athlete's CG transfer is fouled up, then correcting it is going to get a radical improvement right now.
Aumont's CG transfer isn't fouled up until right at the release point, and then it's a catastrophe. 
Even Eddie O'Brien would agree that pitchers want to decelerate smoothly. 
If you were to plot Aumont's CG travel on a video screen right now, you would see that at the moment he hits his leading femur, that the center of gravity's arc RISES and BRAKES very SHARPLY -- like Porsche doing 100 mph, going around a mountain road, braking as it fishtails around a corner, although Aumont's vector is UP rather than sideways.
If Aumont bent his front knee, the arc on which his CG traveled would be much straighter, and the negative change in speed would be much smoother.
This isn't opinion.  I kinna change the laws o' physics Captin :- )


I'm starting to seriously wonder.
I *agree* with you that in an ideal world where people were all trained as babies to think like a martial artist, fixing Aumont would be a relatively straightforward application of Aikido.  My claim is that Aumont is not a Kohai in the Dojo and has never even thought of his baseball movement in your terms...and teaching a guy like him could either be quick if he's got a natural instinct for it...or painfully...PAINFULLY slow.  You cannot assume that just because you...or the pitching coaches working with him...understand the problem with his landing leg, means it should be a one-week fix for everyone.  Just because you're right about about how it should be fixed doesn't mean it applies to everyone so effortlessly as it applies to a Japanese ballplayer or a martial artist.


is that you haven't had your first aikido (or skiing, or yoga, or bowling) lesson.
After your first lesson, you'd go, "AH!  Now I get why that fix would be so easy for Aumont."  You're speculating as to what these sports movements (and adjustments) feel like; I'm not.
Just real quick, "Kohai" refers to somebody accomplished in the art, but junior to the sensei's assistants.  We're talking about Aumont as a white belt, the kind of guy who would be getting his footwork corrected.  It's a class or two to do that and then on to the actual aiki waza.  ;- )
If it took somebody six months to learn how to step from 2 to 8 o'clock on shiho-nage --the way you're envisioning Aumont needing 6 months to learn how to land with his blinkin' knee bent -- he'd be doing something other than training with the regulars.  :- )
Johjima-san is Kohai to Ichiro as Sempai, who is Sempai to (say) Oh as sensei.  Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders, probably even Franklin Gutierrez have not achieved Kohai status in the local vernacular.  Kohai is a term of fairly high status.... not to quibble, but the point is, when Ichiro refers to Johjima as Kohai, he has promoted Joh above all the other Mariners other than Griffey...
If this kind of thinking seems odd, remember that vertical hierarchy is an institution in Japan.  Juniors are expected to learn, and learn quickly (i.e. not by doing it their own way).
Anyway, you just got done with a developing flame war with CPB.  I'll pass on the transition over to me.    I'll give you the last word, and then let's move on.


I don't see that discussion with CPB as a flame war.  CPB was atypically aggressive but I didn't respond in kind at all and his comments never rose to flaming status anyway.
And I don't see what that has to do with this conversation, since I've not said anything to you that would be considered personal other than to wonder whether you were actually reading the entire content of my posts, because you badly mischaracterized my argument.  All of the heavy-handed (THAT is personal) lecturing in the world is not going to convince me that aikido is simple for someone who hasn't ever thought of his sports movement in aiki terms.  Some pitchers might learn quickly...but there's no guarantee that Aumont necessarily would.

IcebreakerX's picture

Where exactly do scouts typically measure? Do they measure at release? At the plate? Or is it somewhere in between?
Clearly, plate speed is probably the most important, as it would signify things like tight spin, the 'rising' optical illusion, among others.
But I've always found that Japanese TV radar guns and American TV radar guns seem oddly off of each either. Nomo, Matsuzaka and Darvish have been hailed as Japanese flamethrowers, but they seem to stick around at 150~ KPH here. And then, in America, boom, they're hitting 97+.
What gives?

IcebreakerX's picture

Where exactly do scouts typically measure? Do they measure at release? At the plate? Or is it somewhere in between?
Clearly, plate speed is probably the most important, as it would signify things like tight spin, the 'rising' optical illusion, among others.
But I've always found that Japanese TV radar guns and American TV radar guns seem oddly off of each either. Nomo, Matsuzaka and Darvish have been hailed as Japanese flamethrowers, but they seem to stick around at 150~ KPH here. And then, in America, boom, they're hitting 97+.
What gives?

Taro's picture

It does seem a lot more logical to record pitch speed 'at' the plate, buts it done at release. I'm not sure why its done that way (maybe just because the mph is more impressive).. Speed 'at' the plate is much more important.
I think the MLB guns are fast, so you can kind of add 2mph or so to any NPB pitchers that come over.


Got some video from the AFL with Aumont throwing off the mound...he still does the plant-leg straightening thing though not quite as painful looking (less snap to it), but...and I can't put my finger on why...the rest of his mechanics look a lot less violent.  Maybe Doc or one of the others could explain what he's doing differently now that makes it look like a much more tenable delivery?


Dr's orders:
Strasburg 3.1 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 2 K
Wrap up with some video here:
Limited to 50 pitches, and will ratchet up to 75 in his scheduled 6 starts.
Ackley did not play Saturday, but went 1-for-1 (double!) as a late-inning replacement on Friday (CF -- all his defense so far has been in center).  He's now 5-for-10 with a walk.
Fields pitched a scoreless inning with a walk.  Aumont pitched 1.1 and gave up 2 R, 1 ER, with 2 K and 2 BB.  Aumont feature story here:
Then there's Joe Dunigan, who has never been touted all that much, probably because he's 23 and just finished the year in A+.  He's a LH power bat picked in the 5th round out of Oklahoma in 2007.  He crushed the Cal League for 30 HR and a .570 SLG, but we all know that's the Cal League.  Also had 20 SBs vs. 8 CS.  Anyway, he's also off to a hot start in the AFL with 4 hits, a double and HR in his first 13 ABs.
Churchill is on site and has above-and-beyond the usual good stuff with video, scouts' takes, etc. Check out the scout's take on Aumont in the 10/17 entry. Churchill is starting to think Dunigan could bloom into a platoon 1B option with genuine power.
And finally: Michael Saunders showed up in Lara, got a single and 2 K going 1-for-4 playing CF for los Cardinales of the Venezuealan Winter League.

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