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Entries in Joe Nathan (3)

Tuesday
Mar122013

Halladay says he is healthy after rough outing and more

"Roy Halladay insisted Tuesday that he is fine.

But is he really?

He struggled terribly in 2 2/3 innings at Bright House Field against a lineup featuring mostly Detroit Tigers reserves. He allowed six hits, seven runs, four walks, one wild pitch, two home runs and one hit batsman. He lacked tempo and command throughout the start. He also lacked velocity. One scout said his fastball hit just 86-88 mph on the radar gun. Other reports had gun readings clocking his fastball a mile or two less than that.

Halladay's velocity has dropped since his first two Grapefruit League starts, when he sat in the 89-91 mph range. It dropped into the 86-88 mph range in his third start before sitting in about the same area Tuesday.

Halladay appears to be going in the wrong direction with Opening Day just 20 days away.

"The good part is, there's no soreness," Halladay said. "Nothing hurts."

He blamed his troubling performance on lethargy. He said a completely revamped, more intense workout program, plus throwing two bullpen sessions in between starts, contributed to his lackluster performance.

"I think I've always been a lot harder on myself than any of you guys have ever been. I can promise you that," he said. "You also are aware of what's going on, and it's hard to explain sometimes how you're feeling, what you're working on, what you're going through, what you're trying to do. When you know in your head what's going on, it's a lot different."

Source: MLB.com

Lawrie expects to be ready for season opener

"Brett Lawrie insists there’s no reason to worry.

Blue Jays fans, of course, will worry anyway.

The injured third baseman returned to the Jays spring training complex on Tuesday morning to see team doctors and training staff after participating in a non-active role with Team Canada at the World Baseball Classic until the Canadians were eliminated Sunday night."

Source: Thestar.com

Samardzija turns corner as opening day approaches

"Three weeks before he takes the mound on Opening Day in Pittsburgh, Jeff Samardzija moved closer to being ready for the Cubs' first game that counts.

While Samardzija's line -- 4 2/3 innings, 4 earned runs, 4 hits, 2 walks and 2 home runs allowed -- wasn't what he'll look for in 21 days, he was nevertheless encouraged by how he felt after ramping up the intensity for the first time this spring.

"I really thought today was a big turn for me, just how I felt, my pitch execution -- if I missed, I didn't miss by much," Samardzija said. "The adjustments I need to make are pretty simple, I feel like."

Source: CSNchicago.com

Patient appraoch with Ortiz is the right move

"I don't think it requires high levels of cynicism in the bloodstream to have heard the Red Sox' recent explanation for sore-heeled David Ortiz's scheduled five-to-seven-day hiatus and immediately mutter: ''Right. More like five to seven weeks."

I suppose any time the Red Sox' medical team concludes a diagnosis without alienating a player is a victory nowadays. But let's just say Monday's acknowledgement that Ortiz, who was limited to just 90 games last season after suffering a slight tear in his right Achilles' tendon, will probably begin the season on the disabled list hardly comes as a surprise."

Source: Boston.com

Jeter to play shortstop Wednesday

"Derek Jeter says he will play at shortstop Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Phillies.

It's the first time in the field for Jeter since ankle surgery last fall. Jeter says Tuesday after working out in Tampa that he'll "be out there" against the Phillies after two games as the designated hitter.

The game Wednesday also marks the spring training debut for Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte.

Jeter went 0 for 2 Monday in his second game at DH since breaking his left ankle in October. He had a single in two at-bats Saturday."

Source: NYPost.com

Joe Nathan still building arm strength

"Texas Rangers closer Joe Nathan gave up back-to-back triples Monday, but the bigger development was the progress of his slider. After the two triples, which accounted for San Francisco’s second run in a 2-1 victory, he found the Giants committing to and chasing his slider. That led to three consecutive strikeouts.

Nathan said his arm strength is still lacking, but that it has come later during spring training in recent years. He compiled a 10.29 ERA in seven spring games last year and a 9.72 in 2011, his first year back from Tommy John surgery."

Source: Dallasnews.com

Nick Markakis out roughly two weeks

"The cause of Nick Markakis’ neck soreness is more severe than originally thought, but the Orioles hope that some rest will allow the team’s starting right fielder to return to spring training games in the next week or two.

A MRI on Monday revealed a small disk herniation — or slight tear — in the C4-C5 section (neck area) of Markakis’ spine, manager Buck Showalter said."

Source: Baltimoresun.com

Wednesday
Jun062012

Joe Nathan Finds His Fastball

When the Rangers slid Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation and signed Joe Nathan to a two-year, $14.5 million deal to replace him as closer, it looked like the club paid sticker price for a pitcher in decline. Nathan ranked second among all qualified relievers in ERA+ (237) and fifth in strikeout rate (11.1 per nine frames) from the time he became the Twins' stopper in 2004 to 2009. But he missed all of the 2010 season following Tommy John surgery, and he wasn't his electric usual self upon returning in 2011 (an 84 ERA+ and 8.7 K's per nine).

In 2012, however, the Rangers closer has re-established himself as a relief ace. Nathan boasts a 226 ERA, and his K rate is back up to 10.7 per nine. The 37-year-old has returned to form by missing bats with a higher-octane fastball.

Post-Tommy John in 2011, Nathan averaged 92.3 mph with his fastball and didn't get many swings and misses with the pitch. That was especially the case on fastballs thrown high in the strike zone. Here's his fastball contact rate by pitch location last season, and then the league average for relief pitchers:

Nathan's fastball contact rate by pitch location, 2011 

Average fastball contact rate by location for relievers

Nathan got a whiff just 13 percent of the time that batters offered at his fastball, compared to the 18 percent average for relievers. But with the Rangers, Nathan has averaged 93.8 mph with his heater and is missing many bats up in the zone: 

Nathan's fastball contact rate by pitch location, 2012

Hitters have swung through nearly a quarter of Nathan's fastballs in 2012. That places him in the top 20 among qualified 'pen arms:

Highest fastball miss rates among relievers, 2012

PitcherMiss Pct.
Ernesto Frieri 47.6%
Aroldis Chapman 40.7%
Sean Marshall 38.0%
Jason Grilli 33.1%
Craig Kimbrel 31.8%
Joel Peralta 31.5%
Steve Delabar 29.9%
Koji Uehara 27.4%
Fernando Rodriguez 27.4%
J. J. Hoover 27.2%
John Axford 26.5%
Brad Brach 26.4%
Jose Arredondo 25.5%
Andrew Cashner 25.4%
Bobby Parnell 25.4%
Jordan Norberto 25.0%
Jake McGee 25.0%
Henry Rodriguez 24.8%
Tyler Clippard 24.5%
Joe Nathan 24.5%

 

Tuesday
Nov222011

Rangers Ink Nathan; Feliz to Start

Texas Rangers signed RHP Joe Nathan to a two-year, $14.5 million contract with a $9 million club option for the 2014 season.

Turning 37 today, Nathan's days as a tier-one closer are likely over. But in his first post-Tommy John season, the longtime Twinkie pitched better than his ERA would suggest. Nathan gives the Rangers a capable late-inning arm without a leviathan three or four-year commitment and allows the club to make a reliever-to-starter conversion for a third straight season by moving Neftali Feliz to the rotation.

Nathan didn't get through the 2011 season unscathed (he missed a month with a right forearm injury), and his fastball, which once consistently sat 94-95 mph, averaged a more modest 92.3 mph. His lower-octane stuff led to his first relief year in which he struck out less than a batter per inning (8.7 K/9 in 44.2 frames). However, Nathan displayed pretty good control (2.4 unintentional BB/9) and his fielding-independent numbers paint the picture of a pitcher deserving of a 4.00ish ERA instead of his actual 4.84 mark, which was the result of a very low rate of stranding base runners (64 percent, compared to a 79 percent career average).

One concern for Nathan is how his fly ball-heavy approach will play in Arlington. Nathan induced ground balls slightly under 36 percent of the time in 2011, and he served up 1.4 homers per nine innings. Like in past years, he tried to challenge hitters up in the zone with his fastball:

Nathan's fastball location, 2011

But, sitting at 92 instead of his vintage 95 mph, Nathan's fastball got hit hard:

In-play slugging percentage by location on Nathan's fastball, 2011

All seven of the homers that Nathan surrendered came on fastballs. Hitters slugged nearly .600 against the pitch, and whiffed at it less than 13 percent of the time (18 percent average for relievers). Thankfully, his breaking pitches were more effective: batters slugged a combined .220 versus Nathan's low-80s curveball and high-80s slider (.302 average for RP).

Nathan's signing means the Rangers will try to go three-for-three in converting relievers to the rotation. C.J. Wilson (who Feliz may well replace) made the jump in 2010 and Alexi Ogando did it prior to 2011, and now Feliz gets his shot. The 23-year-old righty was a starter coming up on the farm with the Braves and has long been lauded for a devastating, mid-to-upper-90s fastball. As a starter, however, he'll need to show better control (he walked 4.2 per nine unintentionally last year), dust off his breaking ball and further develop either his high-80s cutter or changeup.

As a reliever in the majors, Feliz has averaged 96.3 mph with his fastball. Not surprisingly, he has fallen in love with that pitch, throwing it about 77 percent of the time. It's arguably the best fastball among all relievers. Even though hitters guessing fastball would have been right more than three-quarters of the time, they hit .181 against the pitch and slugged .291, while also whiffing 26 percent of the time that they dared take a cut.

That fastball, even if it loses a couple ticks in extended outings, will be the center piece of his approach. But his secondary stuff needs a tune-up. Feliz has thrown his power slider for a strike less than half of the time, and his changeup also has a below-average strike rate in the mid-fifties. As he develops those pitches more in Spring Training, he could also go to a high-80s cutter that he started throwing in 2011 (green on the chart below). That pitch would give hitters something more to think about instead of just gearing up for a fastball (red) or looking for a sweeping slider (blue).

Release velocity and pitch break on Feliz's pitches, 2011

Nathan no longer hangs out in Mo Rivera/Papelbon territory, and there are concerns about how his aerial approach applies to a park that increases homers by 19 percent for lefty hitters and 14 percent for righties. Still, if his signing keeps Texas from going 3 years/$30+ million for someone like Francisco Rodriguez or Heath Bell and lets Feliz maximize his value as a starter, it's a defensible move.