Saturday, March 21, 2009

Another Nate Article

From the must-be-getting-bored-again-writer, Jason Beck at the Tigers site the other day...

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers asked Nate Robertson to pitch more left-handed, as they put it.

No kidding. He's been throwing right handed? That would explain why he sucks so bad! Silly Nate!

Taking a few examples from prototypical lefty Kenny Rogers was a pretty good place to start.

Ahh, but which lesson? Pushing a cameraman? Pitching with tar on his hand? No...sadly it's the one where you keep pitching when you have nothing left in the tank.

"Maybe I'm learning about what you do after you throw a thousand innings in the big leagues," Robertson said.

What's that, Nate? Become the worst starting pitcher in the majors?

Statistically, Robertson picked up where he left off from his last outing by tossing four more scoreless innings, scattering two singles on Friday against the Nationals.

Yet, realistically, he was pitching against the friggin' Nationals. The Nats who have one good hitter, Adam Dunn, and he's in the WBC. His last outing was against the Astros, whose hitting this Spring has resembled that of my last place finishing Little League team that I was on when I was 10.

From a pitching standpoint, however, it was a little different performance.

Not an abortion of an outing for once?

He was still the aggressive Robertson, but he mixed his mode of attack from inside to outside and back. He mixed his pitches and sequences in a way that kept the Nationals tentative, rarely squaring up a ball that came out of his left hand.

Almost like a REAL pitcher!

The results seemed more like Robertson circa 2004 or 2005. He struck out five Nationals, three of them on called third strikes, and walked one batter when he couldn't finish off Elijah Dukes with a 1-2 count in his final inning.

In 2004, he was 12-10 with a 4.90 ERA. In 2005, he was 7-16 (!!!) with a 4.48 ERA. Why bring up those years, Jason, when you're trying to make him look good? Next time, use 2006...the only year he hasn't been a trainwreck.

Those four innings required just 52 pitches, low enough that manager Jim Leyland sent him out to the bullpen to throw 10 more pitches and finish out his afternoon rather than start him into the fifth.

Way to not push your luck, Jimbo. Next time, make him throw 5 more pitches followed by a half hour of pilates!

"I sure as heck had a lot left in the tank," Robertson said.

Nate followed with such dated gems as "Golly, gee!", "I tell ya, I love these fellas!", and "Well, that was a sure sticky situation! Ha, ha ha ha...". "Sure as heck"? Ugh...I hate this team. Higgy would have punched him in the crotch if he were still around.

Leyland essentially said afterwards that Robertson's success was legitimate.

Leyland also thinks 3 packs of Marlboro Reds a day keeps the doctor away.

"You can throw badly and still get good results," Leyland said. "Today he threw real good and had good results."

I did a post the other day about old Sparky Anderson quotes. There will be no Jim Leyland words of wisdom posted on this site anytime soon.

At least 15 of Robertson's strikes were called, six of them on the first pitch of the at-bat among the 14 batters he faced. Three others made contact on the first pitch and flew out. That meant a lot of working ahead in the count for Robertson.

Working ahead. Who'd a thunk it? Now if only that idiot Verlander was maybe watching...

Once he got ahead, he put some of his lefty thinking to work, mixing up his locations rather than simply pounding hitters inside.

Lefty thinking. As opposed to righty reacting? What? Does Randy Johnson do lefty thinking? Beck's hitting the pipe...I'm sure of it.

"I've been a guy in the past that's worked inside a lot," Robertson said. "But when you can open up the inside by showing them what you're going to do away, then you can make it relatively easy. I was able to just come in and get back out there, come in and get back out, and throw a slider off of it from time to time."

No, Nate, you've been a guy that leaves mistake after mistake over the plate and they get hammered 400+ feet into the upper decks of stadiums across the country. If you could hit the inside corner with any consistancy, we wouldn't be having this "exciting" 5th starter battle.

Robertson struck out the side in the opening inning, including two batters after Nick Johnson's double put a potential early run in scoring position for Washington. Ryan Zimmerman took three strikes, including a four-seamer inside for the second out, before Dukes went down swinging on a slider.

Can you imagine what it must be like to be a Nats fan when Nate Robertson makes you look bad at the plate? Wait...Nats...Nate. Oh. That's funny.

When the Nationals lineup came back around in the third, Robertson put up back-to-back called third strikes on Lastings Milledge and Johnson. Against Johnson in particular, Robertson adjusted from throwing the fastball that resulted in a first-inning double down the right-field line. Once Robertson put Johnson in an 0-2 count, he threw back-to-back sliders and got him looking.

Mixing up pitches. Again. Almost like a real pitcher. God bless Gerald Laird and Rick Knapp. If they pull off this miracle...oh, by the way, even though he's terrible, Lastings Milledge has the coolest name in baseball. Even better than Elijah Dukes.

If that seems more like another Tigers left-hander, it isn't coincidence. After pitching coach Rick Knapp talked to Robertson about more of a typical left-hander's approach, Robertson gave Rogers a call earlier this week.

Kenny proceded to yell at Nate for twenty minutes about ruining naptime after Matlock and giving 40+ year old pitchers a bad name by being compared to them by scouts.

More than simply a discussion of pitching, though, Robertson talked with Rogers about the challenge of competing for a job in camp as a veteran.

"Here's a guy that's found his way for many years," Robertson said. "His encouragement to me was just if you have confidence in knowing that you can go out there and get outs, and you've got the opportunity in the first place, that's all you can ask for."

Good idea, Nate. Ask the 2nd worst starter in the majors last how he did it. Plus, you're like 10 years younger than him.

In past years, Robertson could work on a pitch or an approach without having to worry about the results, since his rotation spot was safe. Now, he doesn't have that luxury, and back-to-back solid outings probably isn't going to decide anything yet.

What about last year? When he was moved to the bullpen? And with his contract, he's guaranteed a spot. Plus, all he has to do is outpitch Dontrelle "I'll take 3 Big Macs, 2 large fries, and a Diet Coke" Willis for the starting job.

"The fact of the matter is, the plane's flying out of here in less than two weeks, and here we are," Robertson said. "There's no answers yet. I know that at least my luggage will go back to Detroit. I have a home there."

Or if they really want to make a point, Toledo's only a 45 minute drive from there. I'd love to see you at 5/3 Field, Nate. Plus, AAA hitters are only a little bit better than the Nationals. You'd do well.

That said, his performances over the past week surely help his chances. Among the starting pitching candidates not named Rick Porcello, Robertson has by far the strongest stats. Since Angel Berroa hit a three-run homer off of him in a wild two-inning stint against the Yankees on March 8, Robertson has a seven-inning scoreless streak going with three hits and a walk and six strikeouts.

(cough) AstrosandNationals. Bigf'ndeal. (cough)

Leyland said Thursday that he's free to talk with players if they're worried about their status, but he doesn't have a whole lot that he can say. Robertson isn't likely to do that. If he had a confidence dip towards the end of last season, it isn't apparent now. He said after his last outing that he saw this as his job to lose, and he carried himself like someone who wanted to take the job now.

I'm better than Willis or Miner. Wheeee! C'mon, how much can Pedro really be wanting? Give him an incentive deal, Double D!

"To me, the confidence is there that I can pitch," he said. "I'm going to be successful at this level. In my mind, I know that I can do that.

I'm good enough, smart enough, and doggonnit, people like me.

Finding the strike zone wasn't necessarily the problem last year.

Yes it was. That or throwing it right down the middle at 87 mph.

It was when the ball [was] in the strike zone, what the ball was doing.

Leaving the park?

When those guys are swinging and missing like that, they're not recognizing pitches, then I'm getting my stuff back to where I want to be."

That...or you're playing the Nationals.

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