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December 20, 2013

Hot Stove Scouting Report

Joe Nathan

by Josh Herzenberg


Player Name: Joe Nathan

Date Filed: 12/15/13

Throws

Role

Arm Angle

Wind Up

Rubber

R

Closer

High ¾

Yes

3B side

Delivery/Mechanics

Slow, deliberate wind-up. Hands start at waist, classic diagonal step back. High leg lift to armpit height, slight drop and drive. Clean arm circle, remains perpendicular to home plate upon foot strike. Could get more extension at release, lands on stiff front leg—limits mobility during follow-through. Lightning-quick arm action from a high ¾ release point. Very slow to home plate from stretch, no slide step. Repeats mechanics very well from both wind up and stretch, very athletic movements.

Breakdown of Pitches

Fastball

Velocity

88-95

93 avg.

Elite command has allowed Nathan to remain dominant with his FB despite a gradual decrease in velocity. Works to all quadrants of the zone with ease. Pitch has slight arm-side run and sink. Especially effective down and away against LHH and up against RHH. A plus pitch given his approach and arsenal.

Curveball

Velocity

75-86

81 avg.

Fringe pitch with moderate depth and average spin. More of a “show me” offering than a truly dominant piece of the arsenal. Works predominantly down in the zone and thrown almost exclusively down and away to LHH. Clearly a third offering that is not utilized often.

Slider

Velocity

82-90

87 avg.

An elite pitch that compliments the FB beautifully. Late, sharp bite and outstanding control of pitch. Very tight spin and ability to flawlessly repeat mechanics enables pitch to be devastating at times. Throws almost exclusively down and away—often off the plate—to RHH. Willing to throw backdoor to LHH. One of the best sliders in baseball.

Pitch Usage

Date Range: 2013 Season

Splits

vs. LHH

vs. RHH

Total Usage

Total Usage

FB

CB

SL

CH

OTH

FB

CB

SL

CH

OTH

54.48%

13.01%

32.34%

0.17%

N/A

55.84%

4.76%

39.18%

0.22%

N/A

Percentage Out of Strike Zone

Percentage Out of Strike Zone

FB

CB

SL

CH

OTH

FB

CB

SL

CH

OTH

68.39%

83.59%

61.41%

100%

N/A

53.10%

68.18%

66.85%

100%

N/A

Swing/Miss Percentage

Swing/Miss Percentage

FB

CB

SL

CH

OTH

FB

CB

SL

CH

OTH

6.77%

6.76%

19.02%

0.00%

N/A

16.28%

4.55%

17.13%

0.00%

N/A

Approach

Nathan works aggressively, predominantly using a two-pitch mix of FB-SL. Both offerings are plus, and Nathan has elite command of each. The ability to command these pitches allows Nathan to utilize them as swing-and-miss pitches, and relies heavily on the areas just off the plate. Batters have a tendency to swing at his pitches due to his combination of stuff and command, and as a result Nathan induces strikeouts and groundballs. When on, Nathan very rarely gives up hard contact.

Makeup

Nathan has been one of the best closers in the game since taking over the role for the Twins in 2004. He displays excellent poise on the mound and is very rarely visibly rattled by situations on the field. Nathan’s veteran experience and calm demeanor are two significant positive attributes for a person in the closer role.

Grades and Projections

Role

Present

Future

6- Elite closer

Nathan has been an elite closer for nearly a decade and has shown no signs of slowing down. Nathan will turn 40 years old in November, 2014 and therefore it is highly unlikely that his performance will continue long term beyond a few years.

Years expected to perform at current level: 1-2

Strengths

Nathan’s outstanding two-pitch arsenal and command fit in well within the profile of a dominant, high-strikeout closer. Nathan’s athletic 6’4” frame, repeatability, and athletic delivery all contribute to the overall package. Nathan’s ability to expand the strike zone is his bread and butter.

Weaknesses

Throwing two pitches eliminates the opportunity to differentiate from a game plan, which has been fairly repetitive for Nathan for years. If his command of either his FB or SL are not optimum, Nathan will show a propensity to walk hitters, especially when losing command of the SL.

Means of Exploitation

Opponents must be patient against Nathan, given the high percentage of pitches he throws outside of the strike zone. Nathan is at his best when forcing hitters to swing and miss. Nathan works best away from hitters, with the most dominant pitch being a slider down and away to a RHH. As a two-pitch pitcher, Nathan relies heavily on establishing a fastball and opponents should look to exploit the pitch within the zone—especially due to the diminished velocity that Nathan has seen in the recent past.

Conclusion

Joe Nathan is one of the best closers in baseball and is one of the most established and successful ever. As he ages and his velocity continues to decrease, I don’t foresee a continued dominance long-term. However, given the combination of arsenal, command, and track record of success, Nathan will continue to be a strong force at the back end of the bullpen for a year or two more.

Related Content:  Scouting,  Detroit Tigers

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