tepid participation

I mostly write about minor league basball and I take very little of it seriously. Booorring!

Sean Doolittle

I’m hoping to see Sean Doolittle in this series against the Rangers.  He’s just been called up and his story is remarkable. It’s been well documented, but he was a great pitcher and hitter at UVA and subsequently a 1st round draft pick. The A’s chose to have him hit and develop into a power hitting corner outfielder or first baseman. Knee and wrist injuries robbed him of nearly two full minor league seasons before Billy Beane and David Forst amongst others, decided to let him go back to the mound. The results have been stunning. He pitched exactly 1 inning in his return to the mound in last fall’s Arizona league, then began this year at High A Stockton. While in Stockton, he pitched in only 6 games. 10.1 innings, 21 strikeouts. Then a promotion to Double-A Midland. This is where I became truly interested. I saw him on May 7th. Truthfully, I went to see Justin Grimm pitch for Frisco and Michael Choice hit for Midland. Of course any excuse to see Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt is also welcome. But Doolittle stole my attention. He came in during the 7th inning against the heart of the Frisco lineup. He walked Engel Beltre and got Jurickson Profar to fly out to center. Chris McGuinness flied out to right field.  Then Brad Hawpe came up.  By this point Doolittle’s arm was warming. I’ve been fascinated with Brad Hawpe’s place on this team all season. He’s supposedly sort of “rehabbing” from elbow surgery, but I think the truth is quite evident. His long swing has been subjected to more than a few fastballs from guys who would kill to have the big league career Hawpe enjoyed. I was charting Doolittle at this point and it went like this: FBC 95, pickoff(safe), FBC 94, FBS 96: K. It was the most overpowering thing I saw all night, and I was fascinated.  Doolittle realizes that at age 25, as a converted position player, he’s going to have to challenge hitters and get them out. He did just that.  There was an air of desperation from both the hitter and the pitcher that is rarely seen at this level. Hawpe walked agonizingly slow back to the dugout and my mind raced with what he was thinking. Doolittle had just showed him a bigtime, major league quality heater thrown with precision to the inside part of the plate. Both, the left handed pitcher and the left handed hitter probably knew exactly what was coming. Doolittle won the battle. Handily. Almost mockingly. It was minor league baseball at its finest. Heartbreaking and heartwarming simultaneously. I had a feeling right then Doolittle could make it to The Show rather quickly. His stuff is awesome and he wants nothing more than to dominate you. I’m rooting for him because he almost had this taken away from him. Obviously not many crumbling first baseman also have left-handed 95+mph fastballs to fall back on, but it still takes a crazy amount of perseverance and effort to make it from Single A to the big leagues in less than half a season. Hats off to you Mr. Doolittle, now if we could just do something about that name.

Sean Doolittle’s season thus far: 25ip 8h 7bb 48K,  0.6WHIP,  17.3 K/9ip

Expectations and Insinuations

Expectations can be a son of a bitch. I have no idea if Carlos Correa is going to be an All-Star or if he is the next Matt Bush. I really and truly don’t care where a player was drafted. I admit, it does provide some context to their subsequent performances. Had Matt Bush been a 12th round pick, his flameout as a prospect wouldn’t be as riveting. I get that. But the insinuation that anyone can accurately predict absolute success for a player is both unfounded and absurd.

The exciting part of the player-development cocktail is when the expectations for a player are exceeded. Nothing is better than seeing a player getting professional teaching for the first time and having it translate to success. It happens. And it is far more exciting than the draft. Most of your favorite players were not high draft picks. They were just kids who showed something, anything.  Then they ended up with the right people, coaches, and teammates, and things clicked. Someone taught them how to hit offspeed pitches. Someone taught them how to throw offspeed pitches.  It happens on the field. Not in a press room, or Studio 42. The expectations and the insinuations aren’t the exciting part, the realizations are.

I’m so excited to get these kids out of their suits and into their uniforms. Out of limos and NYC and into busses and rural North Carolina. I’m tired of the pundits telling me who’s going to be a star, I’m ready for the players to tell me.

This is not to understate the importance of the draft. It may, in fact, be one of the single most defining days of a franchise’s calendar year.  Just because your favorite player was not a high draft pick doesn’t mean he wasn’t a draft pick. It’s just not very interesting to me, where a player was drafted. I’m more interested in their low-A batting average. I look at draft position as a small footnote in their overall dossier. I’m anxious to see them play.

Come on kid, let’s see what you got.