I'm glad he's back and I'm glad he had a good start. An informal poll of whoever I happened to read over the past month shows everyone hates Phil Humber and thinks he's terrible. That same poll from 2011 had everyone singing hallelujahs he was so dang good. Why couldn't he have thrown that perfect game last year? It would make things so much less confusing.
But yeah, remember how we ended last post with a discussion of regression? Let's do a quick refresher course. Results, the things we see happen on the field, are some part real talent and some part luck. The game being what it is, the exact same pitch in the exact same count to the exact same batter in the exact same conditions yield different results. That's baseball. If we could run those conditions infinity times, we'd have a perfect idea of what that split of outcomes would look like.
But we can't, so we have to guess. And what we know is that most major league baseball players aren't excellent. They're average. So we guess that a good performer is some part good and some part average.
So Humber's stuff is pretty much the same, but he got hurt. We could probably guess that was hampering his command and that's why he's giving up so many fewer ground balls than normal despite the same stuff. Either way, he's a major league pitcher. If his command comes back, he can be a bit above average. If it doesn't he'll be below. Either way, we're gonna need him.
Let's say Phil Humber is a slight worse Gavin Floyd. There's some sense in calling Dylan Axelrod a more than slightly worse Phil Humber. He's so far showed off a great slider, but everything else is below average. Sometimes there are nights when his command is immaculate or his fastball doesn't get hammered, so he can get some Ks and look pretty good.
Mostly though, he just doesn't have enough to cope with major league hitters for too long. The longer the Sox are forced to put him out there, the less of a talent gap there is between the Tigers' staff and ours. That said, he works pretty good as a middle or long reliever in lower leverage. Against a righty-heavy lineup, he could even do a little damage. Most teams aren't going to let him face too many of those, but following a lefty starter he ends up with a pretty decent matchup.
Yikes, right? He had a pretty okay fastball for a bit and not much else. Showed a lot of chutzpah and if any organization can teach a breaking ball, it's this one. He seemed like he had an idea of how to pitch to minor leaguers. You don't have to squint too hard to see a future LOOGY with some possibility of more.
I think I'm finally over wishing he'd throw more sliders. Right now, that pitch is not where he wants it to be. His results, with as few as he's thrown, have only been average. He's had about as much of the element of surprise on his side that you can get and he's not getting tremendous results. In the very least, we have to say it's not a plus pitch right now.
The fastball, however, is the opposite. It's rather good. I don't love the movement on it, but he does seem to be able to cut it a bit and let it ride a bit. I think he's doing a good job with disguise, his command is solid and the velocity is pretty righteous. He's not elite right now but Don Cooper is the exact person for this job.
Easy Heat is in the process of becoming a somewhat different pitcher. He's throwing more sliders than he has in the past. And it's getting a little better at getting whiffs. His fastball velocity is in decline somewhat and he's trying to adapt. Theory: it's obvious he's not going to get through the contract as an elite guy without figuring out a slider, so the organization is finally giving it some attention.
Alright, that's pretty much it. If I missed somebody you wanted to read more about, ask in the comments or use the ol' twitters.