The Cubs hit the road from Mesa to Peoria today, facing the Padres at the Peoria Sports Complex. Along with Surprise, Peoria is home to one of the PITCHf/x installations that first came online during the Arizona Fall League. What a perfect chance to see how some Cubs arms are shaping-up in camp.
Patton is destined for AA Tennessee in 2010. He survived Rule 5 status with an even balance of shorting the Cubs bullpen and rehab time for a strained groin.
What we saw in 2009 was a young, short-arming pitcher with decent stuff. Very rough, but he may have some upside. Or we may never see much of him again. Patton's outing on Thursday was interesting from a stuff perspective -- we saw nothing but two-seam fastballs and a few of his curveballs.
While Patton did use the sinking fastball a bit in 2009, it was just 78 of his 300 total fastballs thrown. So, the focus on that pitch today is very telling -- he's looking for weaker contact. His stuff is about 4-6 MPH off full-speed, with his sinkers just under 87 mph (compared to 92.5 last year) and his curves around 75 (79 last year).
Well, Mr. Caridad. Angel Guzman's bad fortune may be your big break. Caridad looks headed towards later innings than expected, barring a move by Trader Jim. Caridad is a little stronger at this point than Patton, just about 2 mph off his 93+ average fastball from 2009. He did crack 94 a couple of times, so he's not far from his 95 that makes me so giddy. He threw a couple of his slow slurvey sliders, one sinker but no change-ups. Of the nearly 300 pitches he threw in the majors in 2009, only six were change-ups, so the lack of those today is no surprise.
The big takeaway from Cardidad's day is he warmed up twice. Finishing off the 8th for a struggling Jeff Stevens (see below), Caridad struggled himself in the ninth. Still, his two fastest pitches (94.6) both came in the ninth, and one was his penultimate offering of the game. Looks like he's rounding into shape nicely. Keep in mind, he broke 95 mph 39 times last year, 97 seven times, including his top pitch of 98.2 mph.
Talking about round shapes .... sorry, I'm miffed that Silva showed up to camp out of shape. However, since then, he's been doing and saying the right things. He seems fairly humbled and willing to be a student. He's also modified his delivery (thank you Larry) and had a much better outing against the Padres than his miserable debut against the White Sox.
Silva hasn't touched 92 mph yet, but I have a sneaky feeling he may be getting back some lost velocity. Silva's sinker went from an average speed just over 92 mph in 2007 down under 91 mph each of his two seasons in Seattle. Averaging just under 90 today, he's already closing in on his 2009 version of full strength. His splitter is already full speed.
Unless I'm just being overly optimistic, he may be stronger than his physique suggests. If he can make 20-something starts, and have that sinker working, he will be a Jason Marquis-esque fifth starter, which is not a bad thing at all.
The Rubberband Man is almost full strength. He ripped one fastball of at 96.4, so he hasn't reached his peak of 97.5 to 98.5 yet. But he's getting close. It's just one game, but these numbers are pretty funny -- Marmol's average fastball speed by year:
Six fastballs don't get into stamina testing land, but it's nice to know he's coming out of the box at full strength. If nothing else, two of the Cubs young late inning power arms are already showing plenty of power. Control? Oh well, that's for another day.
Finally, some PITCHf/x on J.R. Mathes! And I'm just a nonplussed as I suspected I would be. Just a handful of fastballs (three of which I believe were two-seam sinkers), 84 to 86 mph. It's hard to say what that means on March 11, given the lack of prior PITCHf/x on Mathes. He has always been a ground ball pitcher, and he's left-handed, so he's got that going for him.
Last I saw Perkins (in PITCHf/x), he was working at full strength in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. The Canadian journeyman averaged 93 mph with his sinker then, but was just around 89+ on Thursday.
Perkins is another ground ball pitcher, even more than Mathes, but makes things way to hard for himself by walking guys. Sure, ground ball pitchers can get away with that, but he has a sketchy K:BB ratio in the minors, well, enough said. And that he's 28 and just made it to AAA during the 2009 season.
Stevens struggled in his Major League debut in 2009, after putting up a long string of deceptively good ERAs as a reliever in the minors. He struggles with walks, and that showed as a Cub. Stevens has reasonably good stuff, with a 93 mph fastball (not quite 90 on average on Thursday) and a very pure 12-6 curveball.
What looked like a cutter in 2009 looks more like a slider now, possibly due to the low velocity (79, as opposed to 84 last year). He did throw some similar pitches in 2009, slow and slider-like, but, with his overhand delivery I'm not sure they're really different pitches, then or now. We'll see what that pitch looks like as he builds up strength -- right now he seems to be in Patton's situation, and not up the pace Marmol and Caridad look to be setting.
Summing it Up
Despite some uneven performances, I'm finding some good signs in the PITCHf/x data from this single Spring game. Marmol and Caridad look strong. Silva may actually be in pitching shape sooner than later/never. Stevens and Patton aren't that strong yet, and were both having trouble throwing strikes. Perkins and Mathes probably have Break Glass in Case of Emergency written on them.