Ohlendorf Throws 99mph; Otherwise Unimpressive

I watched Ross Ohlendorf lose to the Rochester Red Wings tonight and left intrigued, and hopeful, but not really impressed.  He threw serious gas, and wasn't wild, but he was pretty hittable.  It's esoteric and unprovable, but he looked, well, like he didn't know how to pitch.  Thrower, not a pitcher, that kind of look.

He threw 22 pitches in the first inning, 11 strikes, 11 balls, only one swing and miss.  But he was just getting warmed up.  I missed two of the velocities in the inning, but watching the pitches I can confidently say he didn't throw anything offspeed until the 14th pitch of the inning.  All the fastballs wouldn't be so bad, except he wasn't commanding it, and later showed a pretty good breaking ball, getting a bunch of swings and misses in the 2nd and 3rd innings.  His fastball went from 92 (once) to 96mph.  He gave up a bouncer up the middle for a single, and a sharp grounder to LF for a single.  After picking the runner off 2B, Garrett Jones smoked Ohly's first pitch, a 96mph fastball, toward first.  It broke Mike Cuddyer's foot.

In the 2nd inning Ohlendorf started really letting it fly, but that might not have been so smart.  Again I had him down for only two offspeed pitches out of 21 total.   His fastball went from 93 (once) to 99.  But check this sequence to 22 year-old Trevor Plouffe, the Twins' 1st round pick in 2004:

98 (ball), 96 (strike), 99 (strike), 97 (ball), 94 (foul), 96--double to the gap.  It looked to me like Plouffe had him timed.  He was just behind the next to last pitch, and was pretty clearly sitting dead red on the last, Plouffe drilled it. 

Ohlendorf gave up a single because Nyjer Morgan and Andrew McCutchen didn't communicate and let the ball drop between them when it looked like either could have taken it.  He ended the inning by (finally) throwing an 84mph curve to get Jason Pridie swinging.

Ohlendorf retired the side in the 3rd on 13 pitches, 10 strikes.  Like a message from the baseball Gods, six of the pitches were offspeed, and three of those were swings and misses.  One was a called strike, and the other two were put in play for a soft fly to left and a routine 4-3 grounder.  He dialed the fastball back down to 93-94 most of the inning, only once hitting 96.

In the 4th, he gave up two hits and got two strikeouts.  But again, it was his offspeed stuff that got batters out.  I had him for seven offspeed pitches in the inning, four of them called strikes, and another one swinging for a K.  He clearly can throw it for strikes.  Again, the fastball sat at 93-94 most of the inning, once hitting 97.  But again Plouffe doubled, and again it was drilled like he knew it was coming.  This one was only 93 so he had no trouble catching up to it.  And why wouldn't he?  Plouffe saw 9 pitches his first two AB, all fastballs.

Ohlendorf appeared to be tiring in the 5th, with his fastball sitting 91-92, and he threw mostly breaking balls.  He got into trouble with two singles to lead off the inning, but again was bailed out by bad baseball by the Wings.  By the way, one single was possibly because Mr. Excitement slipped to the ground and had to then let the ball drop in front of him.  It was a liner, but he lost all chance to make the play by spinning his wing tips out of the blocks.  With runners on 1st and 2nd, Serge Santos bunted the first pitch into the air in foul ground on the 3rd base side.  Neil Walker made a spectacular lay-out dive for the putout (seriously great play), and he easily doubled the runner off first who had gone all the way to second for some reason.  Garrett Jones then saw all offspeed--four pitches--but finally figured that out and lined a hard single to right to score a run.  He inexplicably went to 2nd on the throw, which was low and right to the cutoff man who wasn't more than 15 feet from first base.  A brief rundown and suddenly Ohlendorf was out of the inning in 11 pitches.  He really only retired only one batter in the inning.

In the 6th, I... well, look, I was at the game with two eight year-olds and a five year-old, and I needed a beer.  And the only decent beer at Frontier Field is Brooklyn Pennant, but you can only get it at the bar at the end of the LF stands.  We started out completely opposite that and I was lucky to see the inning as I strolled the walkway between the upper and lower stands on the way back to the RF knoll.  He was still throwing 93-94, and the inning ended with a drive to RCF that Matt Kata barely ran down at the wall, hit by, guess who? Trevor Plouffe.

Evan Meek looked pretty good (but...) in the 7th and 8th.  23 of 31 pitches were strikes, and his fastball sat mostly at 93-95 in the 7th, and 94-96 in the 8th, once also hitting 99.  But that was the weird thing about Meek when he was with Pittsburgh -- his fastball varied in speed a lot.  It would be nice if I thought he was doing it intentionally, or was mixing in a cutter, but the complete inconsistency in velocity makes me think he's just got mechanical issues still to work out.  Even here, he threw 89, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, and 99.  Nine different speeds in 25 fastballs.  And it wasn't something where he was just building up the velocity as he hit six of those speeds in his last 11 pitches.  He threw well though, he was behind only one batter and threw a pretty good breaking ball in the 78-82mph range.  Five of six offspeed pitches were strikes.  The only hit he gave up was a single that Garrett Jones was very late on but grounded it just fair inside 3B.

I'm hoping to go to at least two of the final three games, so I'm reluctant to say any more than this about McCutchen -- he didn't see more than a couple fastballs, and looked bad swinging over breaking balls, twice for Ks.

Walker didn't look lost or anything, but didn't seem very confident either.  Again, I want to get a few more looks.

Edit: I can't believe I forgot to note the Mr. Excitement hit the first pitch of the game just over the rail near the foul pole in RF for his first HR at any level this year. In the Olympic spirit I think it shouldn't count because it was wind-aided.

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