Scouting the Mud Hens: The Starting Pitchers

Sorry about the delay on this. It's taken me a little while to edit this down to a quality piece. And there's still more scouting info coming (relievers) so be ready.

Alfredo Figaro, RHP

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to catch much of Figaro. The rain delay started 1.1 innings into his start and he (obviously) didn't go out to pitch the doubleheader the next day. I did see two at-bats of interest, however. The first was against Mark Teahen, where he started down 1-0. While he worked the count to 1-2,  Figaro had problems putting Teahen away, allowing a line-drive single to center. I would have liked to see Figaro try to put away more batters in order to note how he pitches when ahead in the count.

The other at-bat was one against organization player Stefan Gartrell. It was a three-pitch strikeout, and he finished him off on a pair of fastballs that drew swinging strikes. This at-bat made me wonder how reliant Figaro is on blowing gas by hitters in order to get them out. Too bad he didn't go 6 before the storms kicked in. I would have liked to answer these questions.

Charles Furbush, LHP

Furbush had an interesting start. During the first go-through in the order, Furbush struck out four batters and allowed a double to Tyler Flowers. Most noteworthy about this first set of batters was Furbush's ability to pound the zone with strikes and to draw swinging strikes (six of the total of 27 strikes were swinging). While he let up a lot of foul balls, the batters were swinging at his pitches.

The second time Furbush went through the order, he didn't fare so well. He let up a single, a walk and a homer as well as three grounders (unusual insofar as he's a flyball pitcher). The walk was interesting, as he was at a full count and Flowers took a borderline pitch for a walk. Furbush was clearly ticked, and I thought it was a strike, so this one was close. Furbush threw four straight fastballs for strikes on the homer, and I'd guess that this was more an issue with pitch selection than say, a hanging breaking ball. During this time through the order, he drew fewer swinging strikes out of his 17 pitches. That's kind of expected. Pitchers aren't always going to do as well the second time through the order partially because the pitcher knows what's coming.

Furbush faced six of the nine batters in the lineup for three times, allowing a a strikeout, a single to left and a homer his final time through the order. He drew two swinging strikes out of 12 thrown, which wasn't a huge dropoff from the second time through. He also seemed to be mixing pitches fairly well. The single was off a curve (probably hung) and the homer was on a first pitch fastball from a batter who had seen the fastball six times that day.

So what does this tell us? I'd say 2 things. First, Furbush needs to work on his performance the second and third times through the order, specifically on mixing pitches to fool batters a little better. Second, he needs to work on mixing pitches in general. He got in trouble when he was over-reliant on the fastball. Both the first homer, which was caused by throwing four straight fastballs, and the second homer, which was caused by tossing the batter a vast majority of fastballs during his at-bats, might have been prevented by mixing pitches. Furbush was probably rushed a little bit, and I'd say that if he focuses on mixing his pitches for the rest of the year he'll improve. I also love the swinging strikes on the first time through the order. 

Andrew Oliver, LHP

The biggest questions about Andy Oliver revolve around his secondary stuff. Now, I stink at pitch recognition right now, but I'm pretty sure the slider is in the mid-80s and the change is in the low-80s while the fastball is mid 90s. I won't break down Oliver like I did Furbush, mostly because Oliver oddly fared better later into the game. But there are some things to note, especially early on.

In the first inning, Oliver threw 12 fastballs and five secondary pitches, with the first six pitches all being fastballs. This cost him: The first batter lined the sixth fastball into left and he didn't start getting outs until he started throwing secondary stuff.

Oliver's strikeouts were all pretty impressive, and they all featured him mixing his pitches well. The first was against Stefan Gartrell, in which Oliver started 2-1 and got a looking strike and finally a swinging strike to retire the batter. Oliver didn't throw his secondary stuff across for a single strike in the at-bat, but still managed to keep the hitter off balance. The second was against Brent Morel, in which Oliver started with three straight fastballs and struck the batter out on a nice 85 mph slider. The third was against Jordan Danks, whom he started out at 0-2. However, Oliver couldn't retire him until five pitches later. He got two looking strikes against the fastball and Danks tended to foul off his secondary stuff. The fourth was against a rehabbing Mark Teahen, who again avoided secondary stuff and struck out because he swung twice at fastballs. All four of these strikeouts were primarily off of Oliver's fastball, though the secondary stuff incorporated probably messed with the hitters timing.

The last two strikeouts, however, prominently featured Oliver's secondary stuff. Morel struck out again, but Oliver started him out on a pair of secondary pitches and put him away on a fastball. Even better was his last strikeout against Danks, in which he threw his secondary stuff for three swinging strikes while he missed with the fastball, a complete reversal of the first four strikeouts. To me, it looked like Oliver was getting tired and relying more on the secondary stuff. Catcher Robinzon Diaz went out to the mound for both the hitters that Oliver faced in the seventh inning. It almost worked, too. He walked the first batter in the seventh after getting him 1-2 in the count, missing primarily with the fastball, which was still touching 94 on the gun.

Overall, I'd say that Oliver still needs to work on his secondary stuff, but Toledo manager Larry Parrish and  pitching coach AJ Sager have him doing a pretty good job on at least using it. That being said, part of the issue is trust and the other part is development. If he makes a breakthrough with the change and slider, he'll be ready as soon as next Spring Training, but I'd bet on a May or June call-up.  

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