Kids These Days
McGowan and Janssen both pitched well in their first game of the year, which lead to an article in the Globe today in which Gibbons revealed that even the umps were impressed by McGowan last year:
“I don’t know how many times it happened but I’ll guarantee you it was five or six times, when you take him out of the game, the umpire would walk over as I’m coming off the field and say, ‘You know, this kid has got some kind of arm,'”
Not only were they in love with Dusty, but they gave him presents all season. McGowan had about 1 extra call per game go his way over the season (the complete list for pitchers is here). That may not sound like a lot, but over 27 games it would save him about 4 runs [(27 calls)*(.14 runs/pitch; for a explanation of runs/pitch, there’s a good explanation of linear weights in that Hardball Times article I mentioned the other day], without which his ERA would have risen from 4.08 to 4.27.
I know, talking about about 1/5 of a run per game is kind of lame when the kid throws 98 on a regular basis and has the kind of offspeed stuff you might name a child after. But it’s interesting that they gave him the benefit of the doubt when most power pitchers tend to get the shaft, while it’s usually guys like the Doc who get the call (more in this old post).
My turn to gush
I’m going to put this prediction in print because with all the talk about him being a #2 soon, a dark horse Cy Young, etc, someone else is going to say it first: Dustin McGowan will pitch in the All-Star game this year. Heck, he doesn’t even have to improve much over last year after his first 4 starts (when he really should still have been in AAA- hey, J.P. was right about taking it slow *cough* Lind *cough*).
McGowan didn’t just figure out how to throw his pitches in 2007, he figured out how to pitch. In the Globe article, he mentions a start when he figured out he had to stop picking at corners. To me, another big moment was when he came out without his good Curveball one start and got rocked because he refused to throw it. Hitters sat on his fastball and Zaun and Gibbons publicly chewed him out. Then a couple of starts later he couldn’t hit a barn door with it once again, but didn’t shake it off when Zaun called for it and managed to keep batters guessing enough to put up a quality (if not incredible) start.
There was an interview with Halladay during his Cy Young season when he said (numbers made up but close) that about 5-6 games a year all his pitches are perfect from the get-go, and it doesn’t matter who he’s facing, nobody is going to touch him. Another 10-12, he’s got most of his stuff working and it’s all about having a plan and putting a good game together. Then another 8-10 or so he’s got one good pitch and another that comes and goes that he can work with.
The rest of the time he’s got absolutely nothing out there and has to figure out how to fake his way through a complete start. To me, that’s the difference between a pitcher and a thrower, a phenom (*cough* Burnett *cough*) and an ace, and even a glimpse of Dusty developing that ability last year is enough to start planning statues in his honour.