Month: July 2019

Ode to a Pitcher: Young pitchers, study Zack Greinke and learn something

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Zack Greinke is a legitimate pitching savant.

I’ve probably listed seven or eight different big league pitchers as my favorite. Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, maybe even Jacob deGrom. Those guys are great. Really. But my heart has settled on Zack Greinke. (For now.)

Oh, Zack.

There’s something about Greinke, my dudes. He manipulates batters with every trick in the book. He messes with timing — how about I just hold this leg lift here for a few extra beats? — and spins 70 MPH curveballs. He pitches to every inch of the strike zone and can work any batter in any count.

He’s a pitcher’s pitcher, even at an age where his raw stuff isn’t what it once was. Greinke in his prime was extraordinary; he’s still quite good, but in a different way. His pitching intelligence might be unmatched across the sport, even among coaches. Greinke is a savant. He can read batters and make adjustments that seem unattainable to mere mortals like myself.

(Side note: Zack Greinke is probably a worthy Hall of Famer. More on this later. Some of you just slammed your coffee down. I don’t care. He is. Peak matters and Greinke’s best years are stellar.)

Let’s watch Zack cook the Milwaukee Brewers in a recent start. I talk a lot in these Ode to a Pitcher breakdowns about sequencing, tunneling and messing with timing. Well, Greinke is the master. This will be fun.

Continue reading “Ode to a Pitcher: Young pitchers, study Zack Greinke and learn something”

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Okada vs Ospreay, Seth Rollins keeps talking and Marvel Studios at Comic-Con with Germain Lussier

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This story doesn’t end with Thanos. (I miss you, Josh Brolin.)

On today’s show, I discuss the excellent Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay G1 Climax 29 match, shake my head at Seth Rollins continuing to spew nonsense, discuss the gap between New Japan and the world, plus more.

Then, I briefly review Spider-Man: Far From Home before io9’s Germain Lussier comes on to review what Marvel Studios showcased at SDCC. Germain was in Hall H and shares his perspective on what is to come in Phase 4.

You can find the show on iTunes and the below links.

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Ode to a Pitcher: As free agency looms, Gerrit Cole strikes out the world

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Chances are it’s a heater and you probably won’t touch it.

You like strikeouts? We got strikeouts.

Well, Gerrit Cole does, anyway. He gets it done with raw power, right in your face. The Houston Astros righty leads Major League Baseball in strikeouts per nine innings; he throws the second hardest average fastball among starters. He throws that 97 MPH fastball almost 55 percent of the time, challenging hitters over and over with it.

This stat kind of blew me away. Hitters whiff against Cole’s fastball almost 38 percent of the time. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, that’s the value of velocity and spin rate coming together. Cole’s fastball is dominant.

I’ve profiled some awesome, creative pitchers in this Ode to a Pitcher series. Take Dodgers lefty and possible NL Cy Young favorite, Hyun-Jin Ryu, for example. Ryu gets outs with deception. He moves the ball around the zone, cuts it and runs it, changes speeds. He uses everything at his disposal to get outs.

Cole doesn’t work quite that way. Maybe once his fastball loses its edge, but not now. Cole does work throughout the zone, but almost everything he throws is harder than 90 MPH. Cole forces the batter to contend with hard velocity on every pitch, be it a fastball, slider or changeup. You won’t get an eephus from Gerrit Cole.

It works. Cole has been an ace for the Astros since they acquired him before the 2018 season, and he’s lining himself up for a big payday this winter. Cole is fourth in Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement, behind only Max Scherzer, Lance Lynn (!!!) and Charlie Morton. Good company.

It’s remarkable how effortless it looks with Cole. He doesn’t have the long whip delivery of an Aroldis Chapman, for example, or even the classic style of Justin Verlander. Cole just … throws. Visually he doesn’t seem to strain or exert, and yet, he’s pumping gas past big-league hitters.

Let’s take a look at how Cole fared in the bottom of the seventh inning in a recent start against the Los Angeles Angels.

Continue reading “Ode to a Pitcher: As free agency looms, Gerrit Cole strikes out the world”

Reviewing Fight for the Fallen and Marveling at the G1 Climax

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This is my first G1 Climax and it hasn’t disappointed one bit.

Yo! On today’s show, I get into the awkward psychology of Brandi Rhodes’ work at Fight for the Fallen, the somewhat flat babyface run of Hangman Page, Chris Jericho’s good but familiar heel work, the astonishing Dustin Rhodes and more. Then, I gush over my favorite wrestler, Kazuchika Okada, and look forward to his battle with Will Ospreay. Finally, I ponder the possibilities with Jay White and grin at the zaniness of Jon Moxley.

You can find the show on iTunes and the below links.

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Ode to a Pitcher: With the velocity still strong, Aroldis Chapman finds his slider

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Power.

Aroldis Chapman throws the baseball very hard. At his hardest, maybe no ever has thrown one harder. Now, as mileage and innings take their toll, he doesn’t throw quite as hard, but make no mistake, he’s still a flamethrower.

It’s become a bit of a topic de jour for the YES Network to mention Chapman’s declining velocity. It’s true. He doesn’t throw as hard as a 31-year-old as he did as a youngster, especially in Cincinnati. I don’t mean to pick on the broadcast team — hey, you gotta fill time — but Chapman’s velocity is hardly a cause for major concern. Among qualified relievers, his average fastball velocity is fourth-best.

Ah, heavy is the head that wears the crown.

The thing is, Chapman does seem aware that he’s lost just a bit of velocity, and that’s where this story picks up steam. Because he perhaps doesn’t feel as safe just blitzing every opposing batter with heat, he’s turned to his slider more and more the last two seasons. It was always at least a tantalizing pitch, but as we’ll see in the breakdown, when he is commanding the zone with the slider, he remains as lethal as ever.

Consider Fangraphs’ pVal metric. It tells us that for the last two seasons, Chapman’s most valuable pitch has been the breaking ball, not the well-known heater. The fastball remains quite a handful — and when Chapman is on his sequencing game, probably lifts the slider. The combination of the two, mixed around the zone with confidence and command, have kept Chapman among the game’s elite relievers even as age tries to draw its fee.

Chapman closed out the 2019 All-Star Game with epic flair. Let’s take a look.

Continue reading “Ode to a Pitcher: With the velocity still strong, Aroldis Chapman finds his slider”

All-Star Game, Pondering Red Sox Moves, the Future for the Nationals and More With Dan Szymborski

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Rangers slugger Joey Gallo made the most of his chance to shine in the All-Star Game.

Fangraphs Senior Writer Dan Szymborski joins me on the latest episode of The Adam Adkins Show. We discuss the 2019 MLBAll-Star Game, wonder how the Red Sox might try to improve, ponder how fun the trade deadline might be if the Nats blew it up, shake our heads at the Indians and celebrate the glory of Mike Trout.

You can find the show on iTunes and the below links.

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Ode to a Pitcher: Tyler Skaggs, 1991-2019

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Rest in peace.

Some of my fondest childhood memories involve nothing more than a glove, a ball and a wall. I would conjure up fun scenarios — two on, no out, bottom of the ninth! — find my favorite patch of grass and get to work. Sweat pouring down my face on those hot summer afternoons, I’d start attacking imaginary hitters with my vast repertoire. I did this frequently; as it turns out, I would wear out patches of dirt all over the place.

As a youngster, like 7 or 8, I convinced myself that if I put three fingers — index, middle and ring — on the ball I’d be throwing a curveball. And it was a good one. (Don’t fact check that.) It doesn’t have to make sense when you are a kid, it just has to keep up the dream.

As I grew up, I tried to simulate actual pitching motions and again found myself plucking baseballs off walls. I never had much interest in actually going out for the team — that wasn’t my crowd, plus I had a job and cash was nice — but I had plenty of fun spinning wiffle balls in the backyard. I tried to throw sinkers and sliders; the results were mixed.

What joyous memories. My love of baseball was cemented.

I say all this because, in many ways, Tyler Skaggs was living the dream of 18-year-old me. He wasn’t just throwing wiffleball curves in his backyard; he was twisting big league hitters into knots with the real thing. He was able to do things I can’t imagine. Skaggs had the talent to succeed and the drive to put it all together. He was doing it. He was pitching in the Major Leagues. How freaking cool. I hope he was living his dream; it isn’t an easy life, but it sure must be a memorable one.

As you probably know, Skaggs died last week in Texas. He leaves behind a wife; they were married last offseason. Not a single word I type here can do anything for Skaggs’ family, but what I can do is celebrate a young man — younger than me — who loved the game I also love.

Maybe in a different life we could have shared a coffee and talked about baseball. I would have liked that. (I also would have almost certainly annoyed him with incessant questions. Alas.)

Today, we are going to look at Skaggs’ final start, which came on Saturday, June 29 against the Oakland Athletics.

Continue reading “Ode to a Pitcher: Tyler Skaggs, 1991-2019”