Saturday, December 11, 2010

Can the Twins teach power arms to throw strikes?

 La Velle Neal's blog post on the J.J. Hardy trade quotes Twins general manager Bill Smith on Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson, the two pitchers the Twins acquired:

``They are both in the mid- to high 90's. Both throw 95 and above. They have challenges with command and control and whatever but they bring velocity. Coming into our organization and our environment with all of the pitching coaches and adding them into our system, we will try and let our guys work their magic with them.''

It's true that the Twins are pretty good at teaching control. But part of that is who they're working with. They put their scouting and drafting emphasis on control; nobody in baseball was surprised when they used their first round pick on Alex Wimmers, widely regarded as having the best command in the draft pool. They draft pitchers with good control, then they sharpen it.

But they had no more success than the Colorado Rockies did getting Juan Morillo to throw strikes with his 98-mph fastball; they eventually gave up and sold him to a Japanese team. Shooter Hunt has wonderful stuff, but in 2010 he walked 84 men in 67.1 innings (and hit 11 batters, and threw 19 wild pitches).

Citing Hunt is probably unfair; I don't think anybody's figured out how to cure a pitcher who's contracted Steve Blass disease. 

Hoey says his emphasis in the past two seasons had been regaining his velocity after shoulder surgery, suggesting that his command will improve. The Twins are counting on it. They might be able to teach command of the fastball, but nobody can teach a 97 mph heater. 

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