Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Yordano Ventura, Fire and Flame

          Yordano Ventura, he of firebreathing properties, burnt the aquatic Tampa Bay Rays to a crisp yesterday evening. Unfortunately, Chris Archer shot down the flailing Royals offense, too, so nobody did anything on offense until the starters exited the stage. Pitcher’s duels aren’t without their merit, though. Given that Yordano Ventura is the most-hyped Royals pitching prospect since probably Zack Greinke, it seems fitting to overanalyze and overreact to Yordano’s* performance last night.

*Ventura’s nickname appears to be “Ace Ventura”, but in keeping with Royals tradition, I’m sure Ned Yost will refer to him as “Yordy” at some point, if he hasn’t already.

          As I scoured (i.e., lazily googled) the internet searching for footage of Ventura’s dismantling of the Rays, I came across a tweet which contained a link to GIFs of several of Ventura’s pitches. Here is that link. I encourage you to watch these pitches, but be sure to bring protective gear.

          Coming into the season, I was under the impression that Ventura’s main strengths were his blazing fastball and a decent curveball. I am happy that my impression was stupid, because Ventura can, in fact, throw a third pitch: the changeup. Let us marvel at his overall pitch mix, according to Brooks Baseball.

60% hard stuff (4 seam, sinker, cutter)(Apparently he can throw other fastballs besides a fastball)
20% curveballs
20% changeups

          60% hard stuff is still a lot, but when you throw 100mph, it is quite forgivable. What’s more impressive was not just the pitches that he used, but when he used them. When Ventura fell behind in the count, he avoided becoming a one trick pony by using both his fastball and his changeup. For many pitchers, falling behind in the count equals fastballs due to an inability to locate secondary pitches. However, of the 19 changeups that he threw, 14 were strikes, and most of them were located down and away from hitters. Ventura appears to have good control (throwing for strikes) and command (throwing in intended location) with his changeup. When hitters have to worry about more than his already amazing fastball in a batter-favorable count, Ventura will have a better chance at getting back into the count.

          When the count was even, or when Ventura was ahead, all hell broke loose. Ventura effectively mixed the fastball, the curve, and the changeup in those situations. As a hitter, when you don’t know if the next pitch is going to be 100mph somewhere or 79mph on the outside corner, it’s difficult to muster the motivation to swing the bat. Four of Ventura’s six strikeouts were on a changeup, and Wil Myers accounted for three of those strikeouts. Poor Wil Myers. He’ll be OK.

               Last night, Ventura showed a live fastball that he could cut or sink, a changeup he could command, and a dangerous 12-6 curve. If Ventura can continue to command his changeup, he’ll rack up the Ks and send hitters back to the castle without having rescued the princess.

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