June 19, 2007

Verlander follow-up; Gallardo debut

This is getting a little old, but on Sunday, Justin Verlander made his first start since his no-hitter; it also happened to be the first since I predicted doom for Verlander, in large part because of his high pitch counts and low first-pitch strike percentage. Well, Verlander had a great start in terms of making me look dumb; he went six effective innings, threw first-pitch strikes to 17 of 28 hitters, and his pitch count was under 100. The Philles' broadcast was very inconsistant in showing the pitch velocity, and Verlander seemed to be throwing a lot of off-speed stuff (at least when I was watching), but his fastball, at least by the end of the game seemed to be in the mid-90's, around 94-95. This is a far cry from the 102 he was hitting at the end of his no-hitter, which I think is actually a good sign - it shows that he's not throwing his hardest the entire game, which will probably make him more durable.

Am I going to go back on my original prediction - that Verlander will get hurt or see a significant rise in his ERA by the end of the season? Not yet. I'd still like to see the Tigers be a little more careful with him, and I'd like to see Verlander continue to get ahead in counts. But this was a good start towards a healthy rest of the season for Verlander.

The biggest on-field story of the day yesterday was the debut of the latest pitching phenom, Brewers righty Yovani Gallardo. Overall, the Brewers have to be very pleased with what they saw, getting 6 1/3 innings of three-run ball out of Gallardo. He had trouble getting Barry Bonds out (1/1, 2B, 2 BB), but was very solid against everybody else. Granted, the Giants aside from Barry Bonds certainly aren't one of baseball's better hitting teams, but it's still a great start. Gallardo hit a RBI double in the second inning as well, for whatever that's worth.

Gallardo's stuff is excellent, especially his curveball. He still has a lot to learn about pitching - one of the few at-bats I saw was when he tried to throw three straight breaking balls to Pedro Feliz in the seventh inning; the third one ended in the left-field bleachers.
Keith Law agrees with me: (insider-only)
His pitching plan relied on heavy use of his curveball -- probably too much, with Gallardo throwing it on nearly half of his pitches in the first inning, including the hanger that Bengie Molina hit for an RBI single. Gallardo is a three-pitch pitcher, with a solid changeup. But he barely used the change before he pulled it out of his back pocket in the sixth inning. That said, when he began pitching more off his fastball in the second inning, he started rolling, relying on his outstanding command and hitting the lower outside corner repeatedly to keep the Giants' hitters from making solid contact.
Can he be a future ace with just a 91-93 mph fastball? If his command is as good as advertised, he can be, especially with that great curveball he's got. Gallardo's next start is Sunday against another rather impotent lineup, the Royals.

And guess who blanked the Mets 9-0 today, with no walks and only 92 pitches(!)...that'd be none other than the remarkable Johan Santana. For all the talk about the "down" year he's having - he does have just a 7-6 record - he still has a 2.91 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. Yeah, he's still pretty good.

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