April 7, 2009

The Motte Disaster -- Everything looked different in the morning

And it was.

The more I thought about Motte's pitches of yesterday, the more I began to realize they all weren't as terrible as the results suggested.

Sure, a few pitches got a bunch of plate. But not enough to cause so much panic and concern that we should send Motte along to Memphis any time soon. Some of those pitches were off the plate and still got hit. Same thing happens to every pitcher.

That the Bucs dialed up on Motte is probably the best sign of all. They saw the tendency for overdependency on fastballs and adjusted.

Why is the dialed up hitting the best sign? Because it tells us there's really nothing wrong with Motte's fast ball. I mean, c'mon, since when has anyone cut a pitcher for throwing close to triple-digits? Nothing wrong because Motte merely needs to toss his secondary pitch in the mix, regardless of how well developed or crappy it may be at any one point in time.

If Motte failed at anything, it was at "keeping the hitters honest."

Hence, the dial-up.

And that dial-up became very apparent when Adam LaRoche took his swats. His trademark ready stance, holding his lead arm up and extended, pointing the bat somewhere down the first base line, waiting, timing the beginning of the pitcher's delivery, is what gave him away. LaRoche brought that "Go west, young man pointer" down and into the loading up process of hitting earlier than usual.

Whether he realized his maneuver, LaRoche had to have been thinking of getting things going early. My guess is that his guess (and the other Bucs hitters) was to look fastball -- so much so that had Motte thrown my favorite for "hitter honesty," the change-up, or at least something off speed, his next fast balls would've been far more effective, as they would've erased the dial-up mindset.

And if Motte was worried over control of his off-speed, he could surely manage to bounce it in. For crying out loud, Yadi's the catcher. Anything slower would've given the hitters something else to think about.

Otherwise, you get this "batting cage effect," whereby some of the crappiest hitters on earth at all levels appear to be monster swingers because they've learned the trick of hitting the same speed pitch every time. Even a 120 mph can be hit with a couple timing swings if you know its coming every time.

I cry a river every season about pitchers at every level that fail to comprehend how much of a favor they would do themselves if they would only get an off-speed mixed in with their heaters. Yesterday, I could've overflowed the Mississippi.

But today, things shouldn't look nearly as bad to those who have researched the video on Motte. Not all great, sure. But not all bad, either.

And should there be more difficulties for Motte, so be it. That in itself should be a warning not to panic Chris Perez back from Memphis and put him in the exact same position, because his shortcomings are quite similar.

It may not be possible for Tony La Russa to use Motte in this fashion right now, but if he could, a couple ROOGY applications of Motte might help, especially if he's not on tap for closing in a given game or two-game stretch. In this way, Motte wouldn't be overworked, but could check his progress in selected situations.

If this is going to be an earn as you learn situation, and everyone keeps saying there's 161 games left, then work the closer progress for the long run.

The next best thing for Motte (and Cardinal Nation) in relation to things looking different is getting another game underway. There are others that have to get their first regular season games under their belts too, and that's where the focus will go.
photo by Barbara Moore