I Am Not Alone, A Lonely Late-Nighter: Next Series Pitchers Preview

Next up for the Jays is a swing out to the West Coast, where they'll start their road-trip with two late night games (hence today's Adrian Borland-inspired post title) in The O.C. against the Angels before heading North up to Bump City.  The series opens up with Roy Halladay trying for his sixth win against Anthony Ortega on Wednesday night and concludes with Robert Ray making his second start for the Jays against Jered Weaver, brother of journeyman innings-eater Jeff Weaver.

 

6 May

Anthony Ortega

Ortega (0-1, 5.56, 1.412 WHIP) makes just his third career start on Wednesday night and looks to build on a decent performance his last time out, when he held the Yankees to four runs (three earned) on eight hits (one homer) and two walks over 6 1/3 innings, despite striking out just two (a PQS of 2).  Decent overall game run-wise but bad peripherals.  Interestingly, in his debut, his peripherals were better (five Ks and just one walk over five innings, though he did give up two homeruns), but his overall line was worse (five runs, four earned).  Ortega split last year between AA, where he held his own in 22 starts (5.3 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.28 WHIP), and AAA, where he was a bit better, thanks to cutting down his walks, in just six starts (5.0 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, 1.32 WHIP).  He has not had a full season with a 2:1 K:BB ratio since he was in Rookie ball in 2006, which is not terribly encouraging, though he has done a pretty good job of keeping the ball on the ground (46.1% groundball rate).

In the minors, the righthanded Ortega had pretty normal splits.  While he was better at both striking out and preventing walks against righties (6.3 K/9, 3.0 BB/9) than lefties (5.5 K/9, 3.4 BB/9), that success did not carry over to homerun suppression (0.79 HR/9 vs. rightes, 0.63 HR/9 vs. lefties).  Minor league power numbers are always a little screwy, though, so I would not put much stock into the HR numbers.

Ortega is a three-pitch pitcher with a 90 mph fastball that he can survive on if he can locate well, but can spell trouble for him if he cannot, because if he gets into a bad count with his change and his curve, there could be a bunch of balls flying out of the park (as I said earlier, three homeruns in his first 11 1/3 innings).  He relies quite heavily on his offspeed pitches, as his curve and change, combined, account for more than 40% of his total pitches.  Of his seven strikeouts in the majors thus far, four have been swinging and three have been looking, so we'll see if he can continue to fool batters going forward.

 

7 May

Jered Weaver

Weaver (2-1, 3.13, 1.168 WHIP) burst onto the scene back in 2006, when he burst onto the scene winning his first seven starts and nine decisions en route to an 11-2 season and a 2.56 ERA, thanks to a great strikeout rate (8.3 K/9), very good walk rate (2.9 BB/9) and some incredible luck (.238 BABIP and 82.6% strand rate).  Since then, his luck has predictably normalized and his strikeout rates have dipped a bit, but he's still been an above-average starter for the Angels.  At just 26, he still has time to improve and has started this season off the right way with 23 strikeouts and just nine walks over 31 2/3 innings.  On the minus side, he has surrendered five homeruns, but those numbers should come down a bit, and really aren't all that awful anyway.  One homerun per start comes to about 33 homers on the season, which is a lot, but Johan Santana gave up 33 in 2007 and still pitched to a 3.33 ERA (though he did outperform his FIP by quite a bit).

At 6'7", he is tall and has kind of an herky-jerky motion; tall pitchers with herky-jerky motions tend to have strong platoon splits.  He has a pretty good slider and pitchers with good sliders also tend to have strong platoon splits.  Add these things together and what we see is that although Weaver has always been good at getting lefties out (.260 / .320 / .439; 2.26 K/BB), he's really dominated righties (.242 / .291 / .367; 3.51 K/BB) to a much greater extent.  His 2008 line against righthanded batters (.266 / .313 / .408) does not really seem much better than his line against lefties (.243 / .313 / .424) until you realize that his lack of success against righties was largely driven by very bad luck (.331 BABIP) and his success against lefties was largely driven by very good luck (.267 BABIP).  The difference in his isolated power (.142 vs. righties, .181 vs. lefties) mirrors the difference in the splits of his strikeout to walk ratio (3.81 vs. righties, 2.18 vs. lefties).  Don't be fooled -- he's hasn't mysteriously become any easier on righties.

Weaver's your basic three-pitch (fastball, slider, change) pitcher, he throws a good four-seamer (low 90's) with quite a bit of rise to it that he locates pretty well within the zone, but his best pitches are the ones the fastball sets up.  His change is only a seven or eight mile per hour drop, but he controls it well and frequently uses it as a back-door pitch to righties, inducing both looking and swinging strikes with regularity.  His slider comes in at more of a curveball speed, but it has more lateral break than vertical.  Thrown slower than his change, the slider helps him disrupt the opposition's timing, helping to set up the rest of his pitches even when he isn't locating it perfectly.

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