Sidney Ponson had a great 2003 — 134 K’s, 17 – 12 record, and a 3.75 ERA. That year his fastball was in the 94 – 95 mph range and he had an A+ slider that got batters out. In 2004, he lost 2 mph off his heater and his slider bit the dust.. he ended up with an 11 – 15 record and a 5.38 ERA. In 2005, the heater lost a few more mph and he tried to become a low and outside pitcher to compensate. It didn’t work — he rolled up a 7 – 11 record, had only 68 K’s, and a 6.22 ERA.
Ponson declared alcoholism was his problem and started 2006 fresh with the Cardinals. So far he is doing well and possibly his troubles are over. But many folks in the industry aren’t buying it. Most believe he has elbow problems and, in fact, a recent scouting report on him indicates he has both shoulder and elbow problems. However, even starting well in 2006, his K-rate is one-third his career numbers, he continues to pitch as a low and outside thrower, and his velocity is in the 88 mph range.
Oliver Perez doesn’t have the fights in bars, DUI charges, and other convictions that Ponson has, nor has Oliver ever declared himself an alcoholic. He has kicked a laundry cart and took the winter off without consent, but those are hardly the same type of problems that Ponson has had. Yet Oliver’s on-field symptoms are classical to Ponson’s — shoulder and elbow problems.
Tonight Perez labored to fire off a 90 mph heater and the pitch sailed high and wide of the plate. The next time it was 91 mph but almost thrown to the backstop. Perez pitched routinely in the 86 mph range topping off at 89 mph with some command issues. But the telltale sign is that Oliver does not have any bite left in his slider, nor does he use it much anymore.
Forget that Perez was pitching so obvious that batters went up to the plate to hammer his first pitch hook in 6 of 18 at bats. Forget that Perez has moved his game plan from a power pitcher to being a low and outside pitcher like Ponson and batter’s are teeing off on him because the speed variance between his hook, slider, change, and heater is only 13 – 15 mph. And forget for a moment that 14 of the first 18 batters put the ball in play on Perez on 3 pitches or less because nothing he was throwing was fooling anyone.
Instead, focus on what Oliver has become. He is now trying to be a Zach Duke/Sean Burnett/Mark Redman command and control pitcher pitching for the outside corner on every batter. His power is gone, his ability to move batters off the plate is gone, and nobody fears him anymore.. not even pitchers when they bat.
Oliver Perez may not be in Birmingham having TJ surgery, Oliver Perez may not even be complaining, but Oliver Perez is absolutely not healthy. Power pitchers don’t lose 6 mph on their heater in one year. I bought that last year because of his lack of conditioning – I don’t buy it any more. Perez simply isn’t healthy and it is just a matter of time before he hits the DL. In fact, I think it is going to happen real soon. At least he should be looked at.
That being said, Oliver Perez was roughed up tonight by a team who had been pretty flat. Even with the umpires giving us every call imaginable (Edmonds beat out a ground ball during a DP opp in the first but was called out, and Eckstein beat out a squeeze bunt in the 3rd but was called out), we didn’t have a prayer against Carpenter even though he wasn’t close to being sharp.
More fundamental errors tonight – Bay caught stealing in the first, McLouth ran a bad route on a liner that ended up going for a double, Craig Wilson missed a few tough ones thrown at him at 1B, and so on.
We had our chances but couldn’t deliver.. Cota had 2 men in scoring position in the second with two outs then K’d; in the fourth Bay leadoff with a HR, Craig and Burnitz made outs, then we strung together four straight hits off Carpenter scoring a run and loading the bases for McLouth. With Carpenter on the ropes and having thrown 22 pitches in the inning so far, Nate walks up and put the first ball in play he sees. I lost it. I mean, why couldn’t Tracy or Manto, or 3B coach Cox for that matter, told McLouth to look at a few pitches to get the one he wanted with Carpenter struggling? Nate hit a little groundball and the inning was over. The Pirates offense pretty much folded from then on.
It wasn’t Nate’s fault – the poor kid is something like 2 – 27 with runners in scoring position in his short MLB career. He did what he has always done in that situation – he made an out. I know what you are thinking and I’ll state it for you – how is Duffy in RISP opportunities? He is 12 – 30, .400/.400/.500 with 10 rbi’s. So why didn’t Tracy pull McLouth for Duffy? Good question. I don’t think Tracy cares a hoot of beans about matchups by stats.
The mounting losses are hard to endure as a fan. Our general manager is doing nothing to solve the problem (ie: trade, player movement, changes to the roster, etc), our manager is not helping the team to succeed when he has a chance like replacing McLouth in the above example, and the players keep taking it on the chin.
It is unfortunate that David Littlefield has stocked the roster with a lot of streaky hitters. Tonight Jose Castillo sat on the bench for some reason and Tracy played Freddy Sanchez who went 2 for 4. But Tracy batted him 7th for some odd reason instead of leadoff. It’s almost like management wants them to fail.
Tomorrow is another day. The bats started to find the ball tonight so the offense might be starting to find their streaky self again. We’ll see. Maybe we can roll off another win or two with some nutty score like 18 – 2.