I agree, Jack Z has made some great trades...and some not so great. These that did not turn out were not his fault MOntero, Smoak, ...whatever. Players that were rated highly by just about everyone don't always turn out. That is not GM's fault. Go Jack..hope these guys come through for you this year.
Scott Baker pitched in a spring training game on March 1st. If he executed those exact pitches, during the regular season, he would easily achieve a Quality Start (6-8 innings, 0-3 runs).
TYPICALLY, a start on March 1st isn't much you care about. (You'll notice that James Paxton's successful start, yesterday, passed without SSI comment.) IN THIS SPECIFIC CASE, Scott Baker just did himself a world of good.
On Jan. 19th, the M's were rumored to be interested in Baker. Dr. D published this description of the way that Scott Baker pitches:
- Lousy two-pitch FB/SL arsenal, plus a show-me changeup
- The slider becomes effective because of arm action
- Baker has the volume on "guts" dialed up to 11
- Good but certainly not great command
- He has excellent pitchability - the sense for when to cross hitters up, how much of the plate to get ...
- Making him Jeremy Bonderman, except with a brain positioned two inches behind his forehead
Baker used to pile up 3 WAR per season with this innings-eater repertoire plus Greg Maddux savvy.
So, how did he look Saturday, vis-a-vis the above template? Did he get ahead in the count, use his slider to keep hitters from unloading, and "make the other team beat him"?
He did better than that. He looked great by his own standards, at least per the Pitch F/X system.
Hitter One - Calhoun (RHP vs LHB)
Sorry bout the distortion this time, but you can decipher it.
1) Baker really painted this 1st-pitch strike - as he did all day. Much better command with the FB than Dr. D gave him credit for.
2) Got ahead 0-2 ... tried to sucker Calhoun ... it didn't work.
3) Then used the arm action :- ) on the slider to get Calhoun out. (Baker missed, left the ball in Calhoun's wheelhouse, and the ball fell in for a single; I got no problem with that.
Hitter Two - Calhoun, er, I mean Shuck (RHP vs Left. Hand. Batter.)
Wow. Check out that comMAND!
:: puzzled :: Two changeups on the day so far ... ... BOTH HIGH? ... Both early in the count?! Like we say, the guy has the stones of a cat burglar, and that is precisely what keeps hitters confused. Confusion is good.
Hitter Three - Stewart (RHP vs LEFT)
You think you can take it from there?
Look, throw that first pitch and the game of baseball can be very, very simple.
Stewart lunged for this and rolled it over, pulling a ground ball out to our franchise infielder. Three batters in, and they're putty in his hands.
Other blogs will tell you, "That was quite a lineup of scrubs the Angels threw out there today. Nothing to see here." But you, the discerning SSI community member, understand that it wouldn't have mattered WHO was at the plate, on these particular pitches. Scott Baker was executing pitches that would pile up Quality Starts like Bonney Lake cops tossing out +7 MPH speeding tickets.
Hitter Four - Conger (RHP vs LEFT)
1) First pitch strike, painted outside, on the black (don't quibble about 2 inches)
2) BOOM there's the calling-card slider. What's the count on the batter now?
3) missed it happens
4) Calling card slider DOUBLES UP THE LOCATION, doesn't matter, it's that good
You can check the rest of the matchups HERE.
Okay, we'll add one more, the at-bat against Cowgill:
. The command he just showed.
We're not talking about reacting to one Tyler Pike start. This is a veteran MLB(TM) pitcher who racked up 2.5 to 3.9 WAR every single year between 2007 and 2011, and now he showed you his old game. That's diff'rnt.
SSI is not saying that Scott Baker is the key to a pennant, but ... vis-a-vis Joe Saunders and Aaron Harang? All day long. Three days into camp, and Jack Zduriencik's grab is looking like genius.
Like Jamie, Baker seems to have Pitchability plus, but from the other arm, and just a bit more velo. Think maybe that could be useful, paired with some RJ-like heat in other slots in the rotation? Then cap it with Felix? Sorry to all the Debbie Downer types out there, but there's a LOT to get enthused about. Maybe DC will have to admit he was right the first time when he praised the skills of JackZ (a bit prematurely) and got so much flak for it at FG. It just takes some time for the plan to come together (give Jack a cigar to roll between his fingers).