Saturday, April 21, 2012

Quick Thoughts on Ryan Verdugo and Will Smith

I'm not going to bother with another 1,700 word treatise on starts from Ryan Verdugo and Will Smith because they're not Mike Montgomery. I'll also not really even talk about the Nate Adcock start, which was simply serviceable.

Verdugo was pretty much who I thought he would be. I was surprised by how slow his fastball ran. He seemed to sit pretty consistently in the 88-91 range. He may have run it up as high as 93 or 94, but I couldn't tell you if he did or didn't as I wasn't watching with baited breath and/or taking notes like I was for Montgomery's start. If memory serves me correctly, he had a change-up and a curve. I couldn't be bothered to pay that much attention to pitch location/velocity from where I sat that day. I can tell you that he seemed to successfully limit quality contact. There must have been late rise to his fastball because he was inducing a ton of weak pop foul/pop fly contact from the Express line-up. Of his outs not recorded via the strikeout, he had only one ground out while having six outs in the air.

As far as Verdugo's outs not in the field of play were concerned, he struck out eight in five and a third. He also allowed only one hit. One would assume that he game a dominant start, but the fact that he didn't make it out of the sixth should raise a red flag. To go with that one hit, he walked another four batters. Sure, more than half of the outs he recorded were via the K, but he also walked nearly a hitter per inning. When he was pulled after recording an out with the only batter he faced in the sixth, his pitch count sat at 85 with only 53 of the pitches being strikes. That he only allowed one hit and it still took him 85 pitches to get to one out in the sixth is a bit worrisome, especially on a night when it seemed like Round Rock could not square up anything he was throwing.

Two nights later, southpaw Will Smith took the mound. Like Verdugo, Smith was a prospect from the lower minors who Moore netted when trading off Major League pieces with Smith being the minor league lefty that they got along with Sean O'Sullivan in the Alberto Callaspo deal.

Tonight, it took Smith 11 outs recorded before he got his first strikeout. His fastball sat 88-92, touching 93 in most innings, but in the seventh with his pitch count still low (and likely having been told this inning would be his last) his fastball was sitting 92-95 and touched 96. 63 of the 90 pitches he threw were strikes. Through the sixth, he had only struck out two, Brad Nelson--if ever there were a man whose nickname needed to be "Big Country," it is Brad Nelson--both times. Through the first four innings, Round Rock managed one base runner, with Yangervis Solarte recording a single back up the middle that almost took off Will Smith's head.

In the fifth, having angered the BABIP Gods, Smith allowed two runs with one out on two singles, a double, and a sacrifice. He limited the damage of having had Irving Falu let an infield fly drop in the sixth and then came out all guns a-blazin' in the seventh. Smith really was a different pitcher in the seventh. His fastball was coming in consistently in the mid-90s, and he blew it by Matt Kata, Joey Butler, and Michael Bianucci.

As for his secondary offerings, much like Montgomery on the previous evening, Smith threw virtually nothing other than his fastball for the first two-plus innings. He started to mix in a curve that was sitting in the 75-78 range. He also had at least one offering in the low-80s. As I've said before, my pitch recognition isn't the best, especially from higher up in the stands. I was in the 16th row tonight to the left of home plate. I'm assuming he was throwing a change-up that was sitting in the 80-83 range, but there were a couple of pitches that dropped in at about 85 that seemed to have significant break, making me wonder if he wasn't also throwing a slider. If he wasn't throwing a slider at 85, it would seem that on a couple of occasions he may have been overthrowing his change when he was working with his fastball in the first six innings. In the seventh, however, that pitch at 85, whether a slider or a change, was the pitch that did in Michael Bianucci for the final out of Smith's start.

Seeing Smith in the seventh, when he wasn't holding back for another inning was a different pitcher entirely. Unlike Neil Ramirez on Tuesday night, who similarly was amped up in his last inning of work, Smith's command didn't seem to suffer on account of his adding a few ticks to the fastball.

These are just thoughts on two of the four starters I saw throw this week. If anyone has anything to add, particularly about Will Smith's repertoire, please have at it.

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