With Walker coming up, conventional wisdom is that Maurer will go back down. I would send Romero down and keep Maurer. The non-Felix starters aren't going 7-8 with regularity right now and having that extra arm might be necessary. More necessary than the sixth outfielder, anyway.
... Even if it is, we doubt it is 1-2 miles distant from the mound.
So our resident super-NPBer IceX flew in the 4,779 miles to catch a Safeco game ... or he drove 6 miles, maybe ... only to catch a dreary 5-0 loss with like 1 hit for the home team, or something.
But in the barren wasteland of a 5-0 loss, he got to see twelve Brandon Maurer pitches. Lose the battle, win the war. Any time, baby.
Oh! Skipping to the end, Maurer faced three guys. Two whuffs and an infield pop. But that is not what you, the discerning SSI denizen, wish to analyze.
Dr. D's Pre-Game Keys
We all sat up in our chair for the 8th inning, and these were the things that SSI was looking for:
- Mound presence = decisive, attacking, confident?
- Arsenal = 2.5 pitches, including 2.0 "foolproof" pitches?
- Fastball = 96-99 MPH and in the zone anywhere?
- Slider/Cutter = 1B edge of the plate (or if elsewhere, well out of the center)?
- Change = "finished" with (1) convincing arm action, and (2) not up?
He wasn't quite as jacked as in outing #1. The tempo was a skosh slower, it seemed, the eyes not as wild, the shakeoffs only "annoyed," not "murderous."
But exactly as Mike Blowers said, "his body language is totally different." He exuded swagger.
(Of course, he also used to look like that as a starter, until AL batters beat it out of him.
Sometimes you get a false swagger, like when you see bloggers tear into fan comments and then panic in front of a big audience. Contrast the reality-based confidence of Roenis Elias, and of Bill James.)
But, still, Maurer did attack. Big time.
Oh, man, baby. Sweet like ice cream. Am literally smiling with teeth at my monitor, just thinking about it.
Just as a f'r instance, consider batter #3. Here's the MLB.com GameDay; ignore the error that there was no pitch #4 here. The key pitch is that third one:
Santana was ready for a cutter, and he put a real good swing on it. But as you see, it's WELL inside, and Santana hit it about 275 feet down the 1B line, and about 20 yards foul. If that pitch is on the black, Santana hits it out.
It wasn't on the black. On an 0-2 pitch, the cutter missed INside, where it should, and Maurer was safe.
By the way, on 0-2 plus a foul ball, Zunino put down the fingers for a changeup. Sideways rip of the head. He put down the fingers for another slider. Nope!
Zunino put down the fingers for a fastball. Maurer bounced quickly into his delivery and BLASTED a 99.3 MPH fastball. On the black. It looked 109 MPH from the CF camera.
:: shakes head :: There are times when sports delivery such beauty. There is an aesthetic effect to Maurer's sequence. It affects your feelings, more than your knowledge.
Full disclosure: as you see from the Brooks location chart, Maurer did center one cutter. First-pitch gimme strike to Carlos Santana, who swings at a paltry 35% of all pitches --- > never mind the first pitch from a new pitcher.
So hopefully Maurer, or Zunino, were playing chess. If so, that's like 12-for-12 perfect pitches, a completely spotless performance.
Fastball, Cutter, Change
12 pitches. We got 4 of each type. Huh! Last time he threw less than 50% fastballs, also. But if you count the cutters, it's well over ... :: shrug ::
Bill James used to say of Earl's pitchers in Balmer, "they're loaded with guys with great fastballs, who absolutely refuse to throw them to you." Maurer's first pitch was 97 MPH, which ... from ground level ... "establishes" the fastball to everybody from the slap of the mitt.
Fastball: 4 different speeds on 4 different fastballs. ... LOL. 96, 97, 98, 99. How's that for variety.
The point wasn't going to be "was he 98 avg vs 97 avg." The question was going to be, is he 97 one time and 91 the next.
According to Brooks, his average fastball velocity was 97.6 MPH. That's faster than Craig Kimbrel!
Changeup: (1) Superb arm action. (2) Average finish with the hand and fingers: only 8" run, compared to his usual 10-12".
(3) Location: every single one of the changeups was on the outside black, to a LH hitter. Go look it up if you don't trust me.
Four changeups, three swings: two garbage whiffs and an infield pop.
Cutter/Slider: He likes this pitch a lot more than Dr. D does. You have 98 MPH, why do you throw 91 with a wrinkle? Unless you're behind in the count, and trying to get a grounder from a guy "cheating" on 98 MPH?
But! As long as he keeps it way inside to LHB -- starting in the zone, breaking out of it -- it's one of his two "foolproof" pitches. The other being a challenge fastball when not behind 2-0 or 3-1 (as the great closers never are).
We've got middle ground here, SrFrBro'. Which you have done 2-for-2 out of the pen.
If he executes these pitches, with these ideas, he's a phenomenon in the American League. Like Bard, like Hochevar. (Both fanned 10+ and walked 2+, which is what Maurer has definitely been his first two outings.)
You think he can?
I don't know that he can throw the ball like this, every time, with this much sense of purpose. But still. Zunino catches with a peachy keen sense of purpose, so may be.
Anybody ever read "Ninety-two in the Shade" by Tom McGuane? It's been years for me. I liked "Nothing but Blue Skies" much better, BTW.
But with Maurer on the mound it is Ninety Seven in the Shade. There isn't much place to run and hide, especially if he pitches with that first game hair-on-fire pace. Doc, I would prefer he not even shake off Zunino: Get the ball, look at the fingers and then rock and roll. That kind of pace, with his Nuke Laloosh FB and Oh Oh! change would be very disconcerting to a hitter. Everything has sped up, pace and heat, which makes the change even more of a weapon. And you're dead on on the cutter. If he treats it more like a hopped up slider and throws it "nearly" at the back foot to lefties, then it is really something. If not overused.
But if I'm Rick Waits, I'm telling him to let Zunino do the thinking. You've got all the ingredients kid, now the recipe is trust, nod and fire. Quickly.....
I had seats down the 1B line for this game and Felix's game, so I couldn't really see the filth.
But I did like the rhythm, whether that was Zunino or Maurer himself.
Not quite fast, but I'd say deliberate.
Which sounds like the imposition of a will.
Hope it sticks.