Sunday, April 13, 2008

Daniel On The Way Up

Daniel Cabrera didn't pitch great, but he was pretty darn good, and that was enough to stop the O's losing streak at three games. He threw a lot of pitches (107 - just 63 for strikes) and his control was still iffy at times (3 walks), but he did some
things that he hasn't been able to do too often in his career.

After reading through the discussion of Daniel Cabrera's start, I decided that it wasn't written that well (like much of the other stuff on here). So here's a breakdown of things to imply Daniel's improving:

1) Kept his composure on the mound
2) Didn't overthrow (much)
3) Threw change-ups - some for strikes
4) Took a bit off the fastball when needed
5) Didn't walk too many
6) Maintained velocity deep into the game
7) Kept the ball in the yard
8) Fielded his position OK

First, he didn't let his emotions get out of hand - after his defense let him down (be it a B-Rob error or a play that should have been made but wasn't) he didn't try to blow away the next hitter by throwing 100 mph, he stayed with his game-plan. When he was in a jam in the 6th inning (walk and two hits with a run already scoring) Cabrera was able to get the next batter to ground into an inning ending double play. Though he got 4 K's, and the Rays hitters were very patient with him, Daniel did a good getting relatively quick outs.

Also, there was his pitch selection - namely his use of the change-up. Though I didn't here it mentioned on the broadcast, and it was hard to pick up with the TV radar gun being inaccurate, Pitch/FX has Daniel throwing 5 change-ups - in the first inning. Though only one was called a strike (and another fouled off) they were coming in at 83-86 mph, a full 10 less than his fastball (93-97), which is what you would ideally want. In the second inning he threw 12 pitches - 11 fast balls and a change-up. The change-up was thrown it Shawn Riggins after the count went to 2-2 and Riggins had fouled off a couple fastballs. Though it was way inside, Daniel threw his next pitch (a fastball) in the zone and got a ground out to short. Being able to give hitters a different look is very important. The third inning saw 15 more pitches - 13 fastballs and 2 change-ups, including one on the outside corner to start Carl Crawford. Fourth inning - 15 fastballs, all between 93-96. That is the one consistent thing about Daniel; his velocity. That fastball is always in that small range. Fifth inning - 17 fastballs. The sixth inning is where he got into a little bit of trouble. After getting Carlos Pena to ground out on a first pitch fastball (to Millar at first, with Daniel actually running over to cover the bag), he walked BJ Upton on 6 pitches, though one was a slider for a called strike. He then started Eric Hinske out with a slider in the dirt, before coming back with two fastballs, he second of which was singled to the opposite field. With two on and one out, Cabrera took a little bit off the fastball (91 mph) trying to get a double play ball. He got the ground ball, but it got through the infield as Evan Longoria singled (his first major league hit and one of many - this kid is very talented) in a run. Some more 91 mph fastballs got Nathan Haynes to hit a ground ball too, but this one went to Brian Roberts and he started the double play. This is the kind of maturation people have been waiting for. Instead of trying to throw harder when he in trouble, Daniel threw softer because that's what the situation called for. He came out throwing all fastballs in the seventh, still hitting 96. After a couple outs he gave up a single to Iwomura, and Jamie Walker came in to relieve him. Pitch/FX wasn't up for the first 5 pitches he threw. That left 102 total - 91 fastballs, 8 change-ups, and 3 sliders. Dave Trembley and Rick Kranitz had talked about having Daniel concentrate on the fastball, and that seems to be exactly what he did. If he can continue in this direction, harnessing his fastball while mixing in the change, then once he brings that slider back in he'll be very hard to hit. It's just one start, but it's something I'll be looking for next time.

I went back and looked at Cabrera's last start vs. the M's. He threw 100 pitches - 86 fastballs, 3 change-ups, and 11 breaking balls. Other than switching the proportion of non-fastballs, Daniel only managed to throw a non-fastball for a called strike once. There was some definite progress shown against Tampa Bay.

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