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August 25, 2013

BP Unfiltered

Grading Casper Wells' Performance as a Pitcher

by Dan Rozenson

It’s good fun scouting position player pitchers, but a measure of actual congratulations is owed to Casper Wells, who played the role of sacrificial lamb for the Philadelphia Phillies in Saturday/Sunday’s 18-inning marathon against the Diamondbacks. In Wells’ first pitching appearance this year, on June 28, he was called in for the ninth inning of a laugher, a 19-10 loss at the hands of the Indians. Wells was a member of the White Sox way back then.

But on Saturday, Wells was one of the real last-resort guys. Not only did the Phillies have to fight for 18 innings, they did it in a game in which spot-starter Ethan Martin got two outs before being lifted. Wells, in fact, threw just as many strikes (22) as Martin did and got the same number of outs. Wells also had the misfortune of having to pitch after he’d played for 17 innings in the field. With all of these mitigating circumstances in mind, I’m going to grade Wells on a slight curve.

Mound presence
Wells was alert on the mound even after six hours of baseball. Mercifully, he worked quickly. He also gets bonus points for having read Carlos Ruiz’s coded signs correctly when there was a runner on second base.

He gets a mixed review for holding runners close to the bag. Having unfortunately walked speed demon Tony Campana (Campana’s fifth free pass of the game!), Wells was aware that he’d need to pay attention to what was going on behind him. He stepped off the rubber a couple of times to look Campana back to the bag, and Campana started and stopped twice while on first base—perhaps lacking confidence in his ability to interpret Wells’s move to the plate.

Wells gets a demerit for allowing Campana to take a walking lead on the play that broke the tie. He held the ball long enough to get Campana moving early, but failed to throw over to first. Campana’s head start allowed him to score on the play. Here’s where Campana was when Wells began his motion.

Mound presence grade: B

Fastball
Wells pitched in college, so he can bring it. He was able to sit comfortably around 90, which is certainly on the high end for a position player. His heater showed pretty good life and got a number of fouls as well as one swinging strike. Based on the PITCHf/x data, it looks like he was even using a two-seamer to mix things up. Could have been worse.

Fastball grade: B+

Off-speed

Wells has a pretty mean splitter. Here’s a GIF of it from his previous outing. Got some good dive, huh? It also has an appropriate speed differential from his fastball. Wells showed enough confidence in it to begin three at-bats with it and get called strikes each time. The one thing he needs to do better is keep it down.

Off-speed grade: B+

Control

Again, keeping in mind that Wells had to have been pretty gassed for his outing, his control wasn’t optimal. Like most position players, he stayed high in the zone (and toward the third-base side of the plate). Maybe he should try starting from another point on the rubber.

Twenty-two of Wells’ 40 pitches were strikes, but he bunched the misses together and ended up walking three men.

Control grade: C

Mechanics

In his appearance with the White Sox earlier this year, watching Wells deliver a pitch made me wince. (GIF here.)

That’s Wells with an extreme case of the “inverted W,” which causes him to externally rotate his right shoulder very rapidly and drag his elbow behind his body as he shifts his weight forward. Put simply, he is out of sync. In the above frame, his front leg has landed but his arm is nowhere near vertical. He is about to rotate his trunk, but he hasn’t finished loading his arm.

The inverted W was still there on Saturday. And in contrast to his first outing, Wells showed a lot of problems repeating his release point.

Mechanics grade: D

Overall
It would be harsh to grade Casper Wells’s performance solely on the 27.00 ERA and 9.00 WHIP he incurred. In the 18th inning, his job was to get as many outs as he could without getting injured. He showed some signs of why he was once a pitcher in college … but also why he was never a great pitcher in college. Still, Wells knows what he’s doing enough to be used again—assuming he can tinker with his mechanics a bit first, perhaps.

Overall grade: B

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