September 12, 2012
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
Sofa Scouting: Darvish vs. Archer
A few weeks ago, I tore the ACL in my left knee, which seems to happen every 12-15 months, a pattern that has unfortunately been the norm since 2004. So this past Saturday night the streets of Brooklyn were alive with inebriated chatter, yet I was alone on my couch, my leg engaged in a physical relationship with a bag of ice. I own MLB.tv, which is to say it owns me, and together we tackle the difficult questions in life, such as: should I watch whatever I want whenever I want it, or should I just pretend that technology is a burden and complain about the remarkable access to game action? My plans for the evening were simple, and I succumbed to the sweet allure of a matchup between Yu Darvish and Chris Archer, which I partnered with the occasional cocktail to help placate the physical pain of having a cadaver graft tear apart under your skin.
In order to get the most bang for my television watching buck, I grabbed some required tools for the scouting experience, starting with my AX725 AccuSplit stopwatch and ending with a Nambe Tilt Double Old-Fashioned glass filled with a delightful blend of quality bourbon, fresh ginger, and a splash of club soda, always served with a lime wedge to tease the mood up to a playful level. From my seat, products in hand, I spent my Saturday night sofa scouting. These are my notes:
Top of the 1st:
Archer’s physical affect and wardrobe identity make him appear aloof or disinterested, but he is focused and heavily invested in the task at hand. His arm works very well and features incredible speed, but his action is long and the journey from pickup to release is lengthy. His fastball has impressive movement and explosion, sitting 95-96 and touching 98 early with big arm-side movement. His slider is so sharp that his hat tilts to the side; it’s a monster pitch when left long at 86-87 mph. He also shows a tighter, shorter slider that pulls in around 83. I’m so impressed with his slider that I accidentally eat a lime wedge thinking it's an ice cube. He’s also offering a decent changeup, but it’s a little deliberate out of his hand and it looks pushed. I wish the action of the changeup was more arm-side than sinking because when he puts it in the zone it hangs around and finds barrels rather than escaping. With a runner on, Archer was ~1.33 to the plate with a secondary pitch. I’m not going back to check. He crushes Hamilton’s soul with a slider that snuck inside on him. It was an easy 70-grade pitch and I’m 70-grade excited about it. Not a bad first inning. I was more focused on Archer’s mechanics than the actual game.
Bottom of the 1st:
Darvish is my best friend. He seems to feel more comfortable with his current delivery, and his approach looks more streamlined and executable. He is throwing strikes early and often, and the assortment of fastballs look very good. From the 90 mph cutter that bores into lefties and away from righties, to the low-90s two-seamer that runs to the arm side, to the four-seamer that he likes to elevate above the letters, the hard stuff is of high scouting quality. After Sam Fuld hit a hanging slow curve into right field for a single, Darvish sped up his delivery to the plate without sacrificing his command or stuff, which was very impressive. Because of the lengthy delivery, Darvish doesn’t give his catchers many opportunities to assist in the running game, but he was 1.06 to 1.19 to the plate with runners on, allowing Soto to participate in the action. Speaking of Soto, with a ~1.86 pop time, he was able to erase the leadoff single. His release was fast and the throw accurate, all made possible by a fast delivery to the plate from Darvish. The Rangers end the inning and decide to hug it out.
Top of the 2nd:
Archer showed a good changeup to Beltre that moved off to the arm side as it approached the plate. It was a very good pitch. It was used effectively as a set-up pitch, as the following offering was 96 and in the dirt and Beltre couldn’t resist its charm. He tried a similar sequential move to Nelson Cruz but elevated the changeup and Cruz just missed hitting it back to Texas. Just as Michael Young was about to use his leadership for good measure, my phone range and I missed his at-bat. It was my delivery order calling to say it would be there in 10 minutes, and no, they wouldn’t be taking it up to the third floor for me, so I would have to hobble down the stairs to retrieve it. I let out a junior high sigh and told the kind woman on the phone that I hated her policies. I didn’t rewind the game to watch Young’s at-bat.
Bottom of the 2nd:
Darvish is getting a little lucky with his location, but the stuff is so good that he has the wings of an eagle. I actually wrote that down. No idea what it means. He’s working with good pace and good tempo, and even though he’s a little loose, he’s filling up the zone with all of his offerings. I like it. He’s not pitching cute. He’s pitching handsome. Big difference. I really like Matt Joyce. Am I supposed to like Matt Joyce? He seems to track the ball well, and I like the way he swings. He’s not going to hit for a big average, but he can put the barrel on a ball. He goes down on strikes and I’m left playing the fool. I still like his swing and his approach. Nelson Cruz is an awkward athlete. He’s ripped and strong, and he looks like a top-flight athlete in his uniform, but his body parts act like they disagree with each other on the proper way to execute a body movement. He runs like the awkward kid in school that might have a physical disability but you can’t confirm it because he would slaughter you. His arm is an 80-grade weapon, but every time he runs to a ball it has a fighting chance of finding the ground. It’s just odd and fascinating.