Serving same old stuff balloons an ERAOn Friday, Seo Jae-weong, the New York Mets pitcher, dropped his fourth consecutive game in a 11-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves, whom he had squared off against three times before.
After the game, the Mets’ skipper, Art Howe, suggested that Seo might need a two-seam fastball to get a hold on right-handed batters. Seo said in an interview with a sports tabloid that he does not see any problem with his change-up and does not see the need for a new pitch. He also commented that he didn’t like it when he was pulled after four innings.
After a pitcher has faced a team several times, he has a pretty good idea how to work the lineup. There is a plan ― but that does not mean the plan will work every time. Often, it does not. Unless the pitcher is in a zone when his stuff is so hot it does not matter what he throws, relying on the same plan isn’t such a good idea.
Hitters in the major league are smart and most of them adjust easily to a new pitcher. But if Seo thinks he can hop along for years with the same stuff, then he’d better wake up and smell the coffee. Over time, as a pitcher faces the same batter repeatedly, his stuff no longer remains a secret. It’s like a restaurant that serves the same “mystery” soup of the day the same day each week.
The real game plan for a pitcher unfolds on game day when the catcher gets a feel for the pitches being delivered. It’s his job to determine what works and pass it on to the pitcher.
A pitcher can bungle his job for different reasons. It might be that his stuff is no good on a particular day or that it is simply no good, period.
On Friday, in the eyes of skipper Howie, Seo’s stuff didn’t look too hot, which is probably why he pulled Seo out of the game. Decisions like this, I think, are a manager’s call. There should be no argument because he is merely trying to keep his club in the game. Whatever happens, it’s his neck on the line.
Seo’s handed out four runs in the first, which may have given the Mets’ manager enough reason to pull him out, and Seo should know that.
Giving out bases on balls is absolutely the worst sin a pitcher can commit. The seeds for a big inning are sown for the opposing side and this is especially true when there is no one on base. To do that in the first inning is even worse.
Seo did just that against Mark DeRosa and that’s where things started to go wrong. The cleanup hitters who followed did their job and the Mets found themselves in the hole from the first inning ― and it all started with one free trip to first base.
I like the idea of Seo adding a new pitch to his arsenal. Seo’s money pitch has been his change-up. A two- seam fastball, slower than a four-seamer but livelier at the plate, could give Seo an edge over right-handed batters. From a right-handed pitcher the ball will tail in on a right-handed batter, effectively jamming him but falling inside the strike zone.
Nevertheless, most pitchers have only one or two good pitches with a couple more that are just workmanlike, and learning a new mechanism during the season seems a risky venture. At least until the winter, Seo probably would be better off fine-tuning what he’s already got.
by Brian Lee