...we light our second candle on the Pitched-Like-A-Man-orah and look back at the first day in awe, wonder, and appreciation.
(And we realize that the Jays lost the game and got swept by the lowly Orioles, but still: Kyle Drabek! Throwing stuff!)
Before we hand over the proceedings to some other folks, let us reiterate our tweet from last night: We really like the looks of Drabek's delivery. Technically sound and strong without a lot of added jerks or twitches or kicks, Young Kyle's delivery looks efficient and easily repeatable. Maybe we're getting caught up in the heat of the hyperbole, but we'd compare his delivery favorably to Roger Clemens' in his heyday. (Hopefully, without all of the needles and shagging of country singers.)
Okay, we obviously have little perspective on this, so let's hand the reins over to commenter Jim Briggs, who was fortunate enough to be in attendance at Camden Yards last night to see the start for himself. Jim reports:
The first thing we noticed was just how young Kyle looks. He's really a kid, and at 22 he's not at all a finished product, so we expected flashes of brilliance as well as some struggles. We received both. Drabek flashed some velocity early, hitting 99 (!) on the radar at one point, but he fought most of the night to keep the fastball down in the zone. When he didn't, he got hit HARD.
Unplayable groundballs and warning-track flyouts were in steady supply, and the nine hits Drabek allowed were mitigated by some particularly awesome defense from all outfield positions. The youngster also showed a devastating slider and an 82-MPH curve that, when mixed effectively with the heat, baffled some pro hitters like Adam Jones. Drabek was particularly strong after a rocky first with a 1-2-3 second inning, where he fanned Jones looking, sat Matt Wieters down promptly, then got Corey Patterson to fly out to left.
The kid was helped out by one John Buck plenty of times, especially when his breaking stuff was in the dirt. Despite the loss, tonight was one of those nights that reminded you why it might be worth keeping John Buck around. He was able to keep Drabek calm and help him through a prolonged bout with the strike zone in the third. It was alarming to see him walk Cesar Izturis on four pitches, then issue another later in the inning, but a nice 6-4-3 double play bailed him out. These things happen.
One thing Drabek is really going to need to learn, though, is to challenge hitters inside with his fastball. With that kind of velocity, a pitcher has an extra tool to keep hitters off-balance, and while a rookie perhaps might not feel that to be his place, Drabek belongs, and he should feel confident in using the entire strike zone. He tried nibbling at the outside corners all night, especially against lefties, and he paid for it. The velocity dropped over the course of the evening, as was to be expected, but his fastball showed some late life in the sixth.
To say that we have a “verdict” on KD would be ludicrous at this stage, but we were encouraged to see Drabek battle through some tough at-bats against a team that is stronger than its record would indicate. What we saw was a kid who needs to do just a few things to succeed in the bigs:
1) keep the fastball down
2) rely on changing speeds
3) use the inside corner of the plate
4) continue to hone a four-pitch selection including the heater, the already-there slider, a nifty curve and a changeup that was little used this evening (Walton time?!)
Thanks Jim. You lucky bastard.
Fangraphs' Bryan Smith says that while Drabek may have been the beneficiary of some good defense last night, his STUFF!!!1 might just make him the best of the Blue Jays young starters by next year.
Drew at GROF was so exhilarated that he made some graphs. Which in turn exhilarated us to the point where we needed to sit down. Also, Drew notes something that we were thinking last night during the game, which is that the O's looked like they were especially aggressive in getting after the new kid. (The first inning double steal, we'll assume, was intended to rattle him and get him to start playing on tilt.)
Blairsy says he sparkles. Like the flame of a Drabeknuhkah candle. (See! It all comes full circle!)