I've been selectively paying attention to the Sox lately. Every time I check in, something crappy is happening. Unless you count angling for a better draft pick. I'm down for that in the abstract but it doesn't mean I want to watch that particular sausage get made.
And the thing is, I do want to want to watch. There's plenty for me that remains fun and interesting about watching any given game of baseball, let alone a team I commit so much of my time to. In which case, I blame them. They so rarely seem like they're having fun, especially the old guys. As ever, Harold said everything that needs to be said.
So if I'm going to check in and I'm going to write, I'm staying away from the miasmic drear that's infected much of the team. Toward that end, I watched and charted every batter Addison Reed has faced to date. It's a tiny sample? So what. It's fun. Have you seen his numbers? Absolutely sick. In the minors, he whiffed 97 more batters than he walked in less than 80 IP. And he hasn't stopped since he got to the majors. He's K'd almost 40% of every batter that's stepped up. And just 1 walk. Boosh, indeed.
It's easy to see why, as the stuff is obviously there. He's a step down all around from Sergio, but who in baseball isn't? The fastball, appropriately, has gotten most of the press so far as he's sitting 94-96 mph with nice rise. And the results have been ridiculous. Almost 30% of swings have struck nothing but ether. The average rising fastball from a righty is in the neighborhood of 13% whiffs per swing. I feel confident calling it a plus plus offering.
For offspeed, he's got a standard slider/change repertoire and both flash plus, but he's got some inconsistency. Both have gotten whiffs at an above average rate, but it's clear he's not quite there yet with either pitch. He's definitely got a feel for how to throw them both and I expect as he gets repetitions and time with Coop, he'll really work out the kinks.
On the change, he seems to really roll over and get lots of pronation. The result is a very nice fade that keeps the ball moving away beyond and under the reach of lefty bats. He made Carlos Santana look absolutely silly despite a pretty ugly location on a 1-2 count. After getting ahead on fastballs in and having showed the change away for a ball, he got the sign from AJ, who wanted it on the black, low and away. Instead he let it out early and it ended up at Santana's letters. CS's eyes got huge, as was his swing, but the pitch moved intensely away and with far less velo than expected. Big whiff, grab some bench.
Good result aside, this was fairly typical of the very few changes Reed has thrown so far. Texas Leaguers counts 8 change-ups, but I'm pretty sure it was even fewer than that. I'm guessing a couple get-me-overs to a sacrifice bunt attempt got misidentified. The problem is entirely location:
I'm pretty sure the two in the zone are the aforementioned get-me-overs. So he's thrown 6, 4 of which haven't been close. It's a work in progress as he tries to find the appropriate release point.
His slider is more advanced, but the struggles were reminiscent of his problems with the slow ball. He's thrown a few that backed up and I'm sure he wasn't doing it on purpose. One does not throw a back up slider to Miguel Cabrera on purpose in one's first major league appearance. It's not proper.
But yeah so a few backed up accidentally, a few hung a bit, a few bit more than expected and ended up in the dirt, etc. I think a lot of that is nerves, since he seemed very comfortable throwing it whenever it was called for the most part. The bigger problem was a mechanical issue that flared up from time to time. He'd drop his elbow and get on the side of the pitch and it would end up without much downward bite. Reminded me of David Cone's laredo slider, but without the crazy horizontal movement. Lots of side-to-side, but not Cone-ian. I think it was still a pretty decent pitch; the biggest problem is that it sapped a lot of velocity. 78-80 is more curveball speed for a guy who throws his heater 95 mph.
This issue also impacted his fastball, as he'd lose his location on the heater up and away after dropping his release point. It took him some correction to re-find it and he'd pull a couple way outside past AJ set up on the black to his glove side. Kind of like a duffer working out his slice by hooking a few. I attribute the problem to a wonky arm action. Most of his mechanics are nice and smooth, but it looked to me like he was a little erratic in how he took his arm back and through to the point of delivery.
But really, this is all young guy stuff. He's got 3 pitches with movement and velocity, but he's 22 so there are still some kinks to be worked out. Big surprise. I was impressed with his command given what he was working with and AJ especially seemed to buoy his confidence to throw anything anywhere it was called for. I know I always say this, but I'd love to see him get a chance to start once he gets things ironed out and has success. He's not slight and I wouldn't be surprised if the velocity he showed as a starter at SDSU (88-92 mph) has since increased. And by comparison, I don't think Phil Humber wouldn't suddenly show Reed's kind of fastball if he was going an inning or two at a time.
Barring injury, he'll be an asset out of the bullpen and maybe even a starter down the road. And whatever else happens, he's a lot of fun to watch right now. Take that, overbearing and thoroughly depressing veteran presence!