Indy at Rochester, Game 3: So-so pitching at its finest

I didn't intend to track every pitch for Marty McCleary because... he's Marty McCleary.  But he wasn't bad.  In fact, if the Pirates were going to add a guy to the 40-man, I'd rather it be McCleary than Scott Strickland.

Based on these one-game viewings, McCleary threw harder and just pitched better.  He consistently threw 90-91 in his four innings.  The two runs he gave up were cheapened by questionable defensive plays--an ill-advised dive by Rich Thompson that became a double, and a ball under 2B Yuri DeCaster's glove up the middle.

Mike Johnston came on in the 5th  and retired the side, throwing six of his 10 pitches from 89-91mph.  But he completely fell apart in the 6th.  He routinely hit only 88 and simply could not find the plate.  After walking in a run, he threw a curve (finally) for a strike, then threw another that was belted for a 2-run single.

He'll be 28 next March, and this might be a tough roster decision.  Or not tough.  He looks like the same pitcher that was getting hit around in Pittsburgh in early 2004.  If he has trouble finding the plate with his fastball, and his curve is very hittable, he's a not a good player.

In the 8th, I finally got to see Josh Sharpless.  In the PG Notebook today, it says he threw a scoreless inning of relief, but that doesn't tell the story of how he pitched.

And I think there's a story.  Sharpless has become sort of touted.  His figures the last two years are certainly worthy of attention, and he impressed the Pirate, uh, "braintrust" in spring training.  So I was ready to be wowed.

Not only was I not wowed, I was decidedly underwowed.  This will probably strike some as incredible overanalysis of one inning pitched, and that's probably true, but it's what I've got.

He took 26 pitches to get through four batters.  First, the sequences, in mph, and if you see an "f" here, it means the batter fouled it off.  It's crucial to this analysis:

Jones - 89, 79, 89, 91f, 89, 91f, 91--hard single to RF.
Heintz - 90, 88--very high fly to 3B.
Williams - 89, 90, 91, 91, 91, 91--very deep, very high flyout to CF
Wooten - 92, 84, 91, 91, 91f, 91f, 93, 91f, 89f, 90f, 82--K, looking.

So what?  A lot of relievers throw a lot of pitches in an inning.  I note the fouls here because almost all of them were hard and/or high.  Two went over the roof over the first-base side stands, the first two balls to do so in the series.

I have no idea if the height his hit balls produced has any meaning whatsoever.  It was just weird, and noteworthy relative to the height of the popups I saw off Gorzelanny, Burnett, and for that matter, Red Wings pitchers with good velocity - Scott Baker and JD Durbin.

The important things were his consistency of velocity, and the sheer volume of foul balls.  It's nice that he throws 91 (over and over!), and perhaps the situation didn't call for using many offspeed pitches.  It looks like he threw 3 breaking balls, only one for a strike.

I would think he needs to lose a few mph off the curve to make it more effective.

Perhaps it's reasonable to think that after throwing 20 pitches, he would give up the foul balls to Wooten because of fatigue.  But the velocity was there.  

Maybe they were foul balls instead of hits because he's got good movement on his fastball.  I couldn't tell from where I sat (third row, between the dugout and screen).

Or maybe the point is that unlike Gorzelanny, Josh Sharpless doesn't miss bats.  He's clearly effective at this level, but I wonder if major leaguers will be hitting bombs instead of high, long fouls like minor league catcher John Wooten.  I'm not burying Josh Sharpless, but the thought that he might make himself into a younger, cheaper Salomon Torres just doesn't excite.  And that looks to me like that would be the best of Josh Sharpless.

I won't be able to make Game 4, so this is the last game report.

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