By The Baseball Beginnings Guy
March 6, 2012
A big crowd came to see Bigfoot – the Lucas Giolito 100 MPH fastball he reportedly hit in his previous start. I was not an eyewitness to the first reported Bigfoot, but neither was the reporter who reported it.
While I have no doubt that the triple-digits reside in that long, lanky limb, until I see it, it’s an urban legend. But what we have to remember is that Hunting the 100 MPH fastball is only a media frenzy and not real scouting. So what he showed us Tuesday was not terrible, though admittedly not his best. But I’d love to be 93-95 on a day in which he had a rather nasty blister on his finger. So right away, that tampers this scouting sample, but we’ll go with what we got anyhow.
And there are some lessons for a young pitcher growing up fast to learn from this. We scouts never look at the scoreboard, so I’m only guessing by the body language of the people around that it wasn’t a win, but this kid’s body language was positive in light of Bigfoot not making a surprise appearance. So that’s a plus and you’d have to be an old disciple of Spider and Gene to know that body language plus talent equals dude. I’m not sure when the blister opened, but pitching through it does show some gamesmanship. I think that’s why he left the game in the seventh. Enough bloodsport for one day. Besides, these CIF baseballs have about as much smooth texture as the pavement on the 405 freeway.
Let’s get this Bigfoot business over with. I had him 96-98 in the first inning, which means the faster hair dryer guns were probably 98-99. When we get to the 97-99 range, really, we are splitting hairs, so we want to see projection – and that’s why as a scout, you love to watch this kid, because he is always easy to dream on.
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I damn love to watch that heavy four-seam fastball and I’d love to see an entire start of it. I’d love to see him pitch with his best weapon. First inning, he challenged the one right-handed hitter worth challenging. He got inside and nicked him. I will take that all day and yesterday. If you give me a big arm, give me a guy who is not afraid to establish that he owns the inner half of the plate. We saw more of this in the second inning, 94-96, 96 from the stretch, which is pretty damn rare for a high school pitcher. He threw an 86 curveball – best pitch all afternoon – a legit top shelf major league weapon. Now he only threw the real good one once. When he can do it 15-20 times a start, then we’re talking elite. And to develop he’s got to learn to throw it more in game situations, but respect that if it doesn’t work, stop trying to force it. It’s OK. It’s not pro ball. He threw other breaking balls, but they got softer past the third inning.
Now let’s talk about the third inning. A pitcher with a possible 80 fastball in his arm should not throw 80 percent change-ups in any situation. If you don’t like it, shake it off. Because it makes him look like he is afraid to trust his stuff. With his fastball 94-96 comfortable in the third inning, somebody got the bright idea to start pitching backwards. That’s like putting a Rolls Royce in park. I can hear my old pal Spider muttering now.
I actually like to see, as a scout, a kid who throws that first-pitch curveball. But if the bite isn’t there, go back to the fastball. Instead, he went to the change-up, not once, not twice, but a lot of times in a row. This is where the dominoes fell.
Losing the release point of the good curveball took away from the change-up before he started throwing it. Then going with so many change-ups in a row took away from the fastball. What happened is that he threw so many change-ups in a row that his arm speed slowed down noticeably on the pitch. And now, with his arm dragging, it hurt his fastball release point and his life. I’ll always believe that the change is the worst pitch to throw against metal – and I’ll remember my old pal Trevor Bauer defying his coach in a game to prove this point. So Giolito was left to aim the ball. And he got predictably nicked. Not that he got lit up — you understand, a team gets a ball in the air against this guy and it’s a city-wide event.
Let me now reach into history. The best 17-year old arms I have ever seen are Lucas Giolito and Felix Hernandez. I saw Hernandez when he was 17 in the Northwest League throwing 98-100 for six innings. Now, King Felix came from another country and had a much more physically mature upper body than Giolito has at this stage, and you can draw your own conclusions from that statement. But he threw six innings and 75 percent fastballs. The other pitches were straight change-ups. I never once saw him pitch backwards.
By the time Giolito got out of the fourth inning, he worked hard to re-establish his fastball, but he had a notch of power sapped from him because he was trying to aim that fastball in the third. You’d get a lot of 92-94, some 95, occasionally 96. He threw strikes, kept his composure and kept his team in the game. That’s all fine. The velocity held until he was 93 in the seventh and then he was finished.
Hunting Bigfoot is fine, the 100 MPH kid will ride again. Needless to say, there is always a lot to dream on here. But there is a difference between pitching to one’s strengths and pitching to someone else’s glove. But before we go, I think we need to check in with our old pal Spider once more for another segment we like to call: What Would Spider Say?
Spider: “Geezzizz, Kid! If Leo had told Newk to throw eight consecutive change-ups, he would have thrown the ball at him! Trust your stuff! Trust your fastball! You got a big arm! Don’t give too much credit to bushers! Now I gotta go dancing.”