The REAL Reason of Verlander’s Decline 2014

3 things to make sense of Verlander right now:

1. The drop in velocity is a combination of age, but moreso his pitching style. He is a very good pitcher who has run up so many innings (including the postseason) each year that this “new” Verlander approach was built so that he throws his fastballs slower, keeps his stamina in games for longer, keeps his pitch count down by utilizing weak contact in a huge ballpark, and possibly keeps his arm from blowing out.

He’s so talented that it seems odd to redevelop your pitching style, but you see it with a lot of guys who either come of age or reach that point where they can’t consistently throw filthy pitches without greater fatigue. Pretty sure management and Big-V sees what happens when you get too old change your pitching style with the likes of Jake Peavy or CC Sabathia. They waited too long, and look at how their doing.

Jon Lester did the same thing couple of years ago, and he was only 26-27 at the time.

2. His new approach is a little more hittable, but he still can dominate, and save his energy for the postseason. Same with Lester, they hold up on the gas and keep hitters from squaring on the fastball with cutters and sliders. Verlander’s fastest pitch last year was 99.9MPH. Not a speed that should be coming from a broken arm.

Downside to pitching more for contact is that it takes time to progress, and depending on age, injuries, decline etc. the “ability” to pitch that way might take time, and might not co-exist when you have your best stuff. By time Pedro was able to utilize his game around a slower fastball, the Yankees already had the best of him and injuries killed his Mets tenure.

With Verlander, he’s much stronger, and as we saw last year it might take a good 3rd of the season to pitch this way. Now, when July rolls around, he won’t be fatigue since he isn’t gunning it a 98 every pitch. And with age, sometimes the fastball and curve might have more off-days. Instead of being lost, he can still dominate with less stuff or holding back until its needed (like we saw in the playoffs).

3. Verlander started “slowing” down his FB after that contract extension. I think they were already aware of his longevity, and it must be painful to have to change your style. But in the long-run, he will become a more efficient pitcher, which will allow him to pitch heavy loads of innings, and then come out strong when the Tigers need it in the WS. As great of a pitcher as Greg Maddux was, one of his weird faults was that he would b exhausted by time the postseason started. And if he had some energy left in the tank, ATL could’ve had 2+ championships in the 90′s.

Look at Verlander’s decline as a re-invention. He knew he wasn’t going to pitch 100mph forever, and if he kept going he would’ve blown his arm out or become lost when he actually can’t hit those speeds anymore. He’s growing, and its not the same as the old V. But he will still be a great pitcher. If he masters his new approach, possibly better.

Brandon Belt Injury Update – Maybe Ready to Move Hand Soon

Brandon Belt did a Q&A for the Giants fans on twitter through the club’s profile a few days ago. He had some funny answers (or “unique” I should say, Tombstone is his favorite movie. He’s only 26 right?) to fans questions, but when someone asked about his injury, he said:

So it looks like when the Giants come back home this week he’ll take the cast/pins off his hands and will begin feeling out his hand movement. So, for all of you fantasy heads that have Belt on your team, be prepared to see him in the next 2-3 weeks, barring any setback.

Why Vernon Davis Missed the Voluntary Workouts (Not about the Money)

davis-leaving-san-fran

There are only three reasons I could come up with why Vernon Davis would skip over 200,000 smackaroos just to come to voluntary practices for the 49ers. Which, I also believe, are less strenuous due to the labor deal passed a couple of years back.

1. He is out of money, and trying to get a new contract. This can be a possibility, but a huge risk to lose that much money from voluntary workouts. Easily could voice his discontent and threaten/ask to be traded if he doesn’t get money.

2. He had some bigger issues going on. Shit happens. But this would’ve been known by now. 200Gs though….

But here is what I wrote on CBS Sports page on the real reason Vernon Davis hasn’t shown up: Harbaugh’s coaching:

Doesn’t make sense. His contract was front-ended and he was getting paid good money in 2012 when his stats are mediocre. BUT, let me defend this here.

 

Their offense puts him on a lot of blocking assignments, and a great deal of his yards with Kapernick have been 15+ yard plays. Most of the time its pretty physical, and half the season he’s playing against very physical defenses. That brutal style won’t get you those stats or even keep you well physically over time. He is reaching that age where if he’s only going to get one contract left, why toil on a team and lose most of your speed by 32 creating holes for running backs or cutting off linebackers on screens?

 

This doesn’t happen on a … let’s say Eagles or Saints, where they’ll treat the TE more as a receiver and less as a bruiser. This might be a situation where he doesn’t like his role at all regardless of the money. He signed his last contract before Harbaugh came in and expanded his blocking assignments under Smith. And Harbaugh seems like a type who will bury a player into the ground to win the SB.
And rightfully so, and so should Davis. But I wonder if Davis is scared to sacrifice the last of his physical prowess on a team that doesn’t seem to have answers against the Seahawks past two years. He’s probably looking at it that he can gracefully do a Shannon Sharpe and play/get paid another 5-7 years on a less-intensive team, then possibly take the edge of his career to a contender.

 

He plays this year and he plays well. But I think he is willing to have one more year of this type of style and I think he bolts regardless if they win the SB. But he’s counting on a ring this year, so this will be his only stir.

 

Don’t be surprised if you see Gronk do this next year either. These guys are waaayyyy above in their game and seeing the money (and pretty much softer assignments) and winning ways of Jimmy Graham they might forego being on the best teams to extend their careers. But they will take the beating in the short-term to get that ring. Gronk is now an injury risk (remember, his forearm injury happened because Belly has him on SPECIAL TEAMS for EXTRA POINT BLOCKING) and Davis’s stats might be sacrificed and physical toll heightened.

They know their coaches can win it all, but in 2016, Houston and Indy might be up there too. And will pay them more with less physical strain on their bodies. They are aware of this, and when this game can take out the best players in the blink of an eye, they might not chance it for their current teams further then their current contract’s expiration date.

Harbaugh already seems to have recent player and management issues popping up that this could be more as a concern with how he is coaching than how much the current contract entails. Even getting to the NFC Championship and Superbowl hasn’t crowded out some of the friction happening on this squad. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Davis just another symptom for the growing conflict between staff, management, and players.

Watching Arthur Chu Lose, And Understanding Life’s Struggles (And the Bruins)

Arthur Chu losing in Jeopardy, for some reason at 345AM, was something I had to watch before bed. His opponents got breaks on categories they were familiar with. He ignored his game-plan by wagering too much when he had a lead. He lost his composure as the game winded down. He underestimated his opponents’ ability to gain money quickly and let the clock run out. He underestimated his opponents to mimic his own game, which when he abandoned cost him his match.

This was a metaphor for competition you see in daily life. I learned nothing other than knowing watching Jeopardy is awesome! But it reinforced lessons I’ve learned in life on how to become better. You always have to prepare. If you have a winning plan, you have to stick to it. Take the big risks, but only if you have to. Don’t stray away from your game-plan. Don’t lose hope when the deadline pops up.

Saw this with the Bruins as well. But I have a totally different reason on why they lost, although it was similar.

Dusin Pedroia’s Struggles and The 2B Decline

Dustin Pedroia’s best year will be remembered as coming about in 2011, and we will not see a grand exposition of his talent that great from now on. And the Red Sox fan, as well as the general fans of baseball, will come to realize this in 2014.

He still will be a great player. But his 4K performance against the Reds is a sign that his consistency in contact and pestering pitchers won’t be as stable moving on forth. He’s getting a little bit slower, garnering only two steals nearly 25% into the season (and with a green-light holding manager to boot).

This isn’t even a knock on Pedroia due to his surprising start, but more to the history of 2nd basemen and how they fare after their 31st birthday. Fangraphs had brought it up last year questioning how much Cashman should invest in Robinson Cano. There was even a better one that I wished was titled better, since the article can be a template/warning on all 2nd basemens’ value after their prime.

Adding to the last article, which talks of how the position puts a lot of physical stress on the players, Pedroia’s mentality toward the game has only accelerated the process. At the same time, it is that same mentality that makes him such a tough out, such a great hitter, and such a gold glove fielder.

The sad thing is, at some point ( and we could be talking 2017 here, folks) the wear n’ tear will outmatch his aggressiveness, and he won’t live up to the caliber that will be needed to get the Sox another title. I’m sure the organization’s recent contract was given to him as sort of a deferred-style setup, whereby the assume he’ll produce for the next 4-5 years, and he’ll essentially be paid $20+ million per year doing so.

It also helps because if he does continue to produce, they don’t have to go through the arbitration process or headache situation of whether they should pay a 38-year old player one extra year. Especially at a point where it becomes a marketing issue of having your face of the team retire as Red Sox.

Where it doesn’t help, and where the Red Sox might’ve created a dangerous situation down the road, is their long-term plan for Mookie Betts. You now have a situation of a player in decline alongside a rising star in the minor league ranks. You have a fanbase that wants to win, and a player that defined winning for this team for a decade. You have the statistics of all the 2nd basemen that have come and gone, and you have a trade-friendly contract that can be dealt if they choose to go that route down the road.

The Red Sox don’t sacrifice players in their system unless they get a valuable need in return, and 2012 might be looked back on how it brought about mistrust of management toward outsourcing talent in the free agent/trade market.

Betts, along with Jesse Owens and Bogaerts, might be the guys they want to be on the field in 3 years. Jon Lester and Pedroia made this team great for a long time; sadly, our young talent is knocking on the door, asking when that time might be up. Lester is more about the money, and the Red Sox have a choice to determine a future with Lester.

As with Pedroia, his future depends on being great. If not, the Red Sox will be coming upon one of the hardest decisions this organization has ever faced.

Why Has BJ Upton Declined; Can He Come Back after Rough 2014 Start?

BJ Upton over the 1st two weeks of the 2014 season has probably been the worst hitter in the league this side of Moustakas. And yet, it is mind-boggling to think that a guy who has 20/20 potential with a good eye can be so bad.

I can Sabr this whole matter and talk about his declining walk rate, anemic line-drive rate or his penchant to produce strikeouts with less ability to get on-base. But one of the biggest issues with BJ Upton is this: The spotlight got to him. Period.

When he was in Tampa, he didn’t initially have the pressure that comes with trying to produce against the best. Although the Rays built themselves into constant postseason contenders, Upton’s stardom could come from producing, and mistakes can be treated softly as he develops into a star.

But after his first couple of years, things started to change. After lazily shagging down a flyball Joe Maddon set him as an example and benched him. This happens a couple of more times, but I don’t correlate it exactly with how he stopped being productive. But what people did see was a young player who started getting ridden hard on how to play the game right.

And played the game right he did. Most of the time. He still was valuable with his defense and bat going through his “I’m a grown man now” years of 2007-2010. At the same time, going into his prime 20′s, his abilities were getting worse. You’d think that the moniker of laziness would wane as he was nearing his free agent sweepstakes.

But, even before then, Upton’s learning and adjustments had helped or decimated him throughout these seasons. He would change his bat stance, and voila! He’s batting .400 in July. But then struggles in September. Then gets his mojo back and kills Jon Lester in the ALCS.

The up and down, and his constant adjustments, I think are made out of fear. Where he was a great player in a team that *meh* its way through the first few years of the century, now was counting on him on a daily basis to help them win a championship. And guys who are lazy or don’t work to get their team in contention get spotted very quickly. Tampa and the Phillies made the mistake with Delmon Young, but each time only lasted about a few months (although Tampa did a “Fool me twice” maneuver by bringing Young back.).

BJ Upton works hard. He works smart. But when he has to step up, more times than not the spotlight kills his game. Where in 2006-07 if he didn’t time a steal attempt correctly, he could work on it as management waits for their young star to blossom. In 2010, management start murmuring “Should we put money down on this guy? He should’ve of been better by now.” You have fans saying “Desmond Jennings hasn’t been getting time so this clown can suck it up each year?”

Instead of taking the bad times in and honing it to get better, he is now constantly going through the mentality of producing under immense pressure that he suppose to be the star. He’s suppose to have the responsibility of getting the Rays to the World Series. When he didn’t have this responsibility or crowding media, he played well. When his talent and work ethic was questioned, he played worse.

And worse. And worse. And worse. Whatever reactions he had to his bad playing, it only manifested itself deeper in his next slump, or his next adjustment, or his next bad play. Instead of focusing on just being good, he then started focusing too much on hiding the hole in his bat with better mechanics. But what do mechanics mean, if you’re pressured to drive a 3-1 pitch down by 2 by swinging at an un-hittable breaking ball in the dirt? Now, he goes back to the tape.

“Stop swinging at those low breaking balls.”

Now he is so pressured to stay close to the inside zone, he’s letting outside pitches ring him up without him taking a shot. Goes to hitting coach.

“Hey coach, need to get my batswing pulling to drive those corner fastballs.”

And what happens is that he is so pressured to fix the past mistakes, that he forgets he’s fucking good and instead reacts to past mistakes by overloading his game to make up for him. By trying to fight his past self, he ends up dragging the same horrible BJ Upton to the plate. But, in a crazy conclusion to this cycle, he is essentially giving Tyler Durden more power. The evil BJ Upton, the one that has lost confidence in himself, that is constantly trying to make up for all his woes in one at-bat, shows up and gifts his opponents with an 0 for 4 bundled around 3Ks.

BJ Upton thinks leaving Tampa and finding solace amongst his brother and the Braves organization will fix things. But it can’t, because his game has gone south even though he’s made this move toward the North. And it has left him because he has left himself. He has let all the things that affect him control his ability.

If this were, let’s say, a Miguel Cabrera or Adrian Gonzales, one reason it could’ve been fixed is that these guys’ mantra is to get the bat on the ball, and let the pitcher lose touch of the plate by themselves. BJ Upton’s weakness is that he’ll let the pitcher dictate the count, but will falter trying to do too much with 3 balls in his favor. When he was 24, he’d let the pitcher give him first base. At 28, he’s a superstar. What does a BB mean to the best? What does it mean to win a pennant? Maybe it means a lot? Maybe not. Maybe he can steal when he gets on 1st…

… “Strike three called on the corner! Man, Upton looked really fooled there.”

Not fooled. Overwhelmed. Chipper Jones can help his swing, but he might need Dr. Phil to get his mojo back. The Braves are counting on him, but the murmurs are beginning to question his actual job. Let’s hope he plays to his talent; it’s great enough to keep his job all by itself. He just needs to realize that he’s great, and take on the responsibility of what a great player should be.

Good luck Upton!