Wednesday night gave me a chance to look at two very talented and enigmatic pitchers: Red Sox righty Daisuke Matsuzaka and Phillies lefty Joe Savery. Both pitchers have struggled to throw strikes over the past two seasons, and many have soured on the once promising futures of each of them. Here is what I saw Wednesday night.
Savery was the Phillies' first round pick back in 2007, selected out of Rice 19th overall. A star two-way player for the Owls, Savery was expected to rise through the Philadelphia farm system quickly. That hasn't happened. Savery is a shell of what he was coming out of college.
While he used to consistently pitch in the low 90s with his fastball, Savery's velocity is gone. He was in the high eighties early in the start, hitting between 86 and 89 in a first inning full of nothing but fastballs. I was encouraged by this because Savery's fastball was at 84mph when I saw him pitch last year. However, as his start went along, Savery lost velocity. His fastball would drop to as low as 82mph. A noticeable difference could be seen when he pitched from the stretch, and his average fastball velocity dropped every inning he pitched. Another interesting thing I noticed was this: Savery's arm is VISIBLY SLOW. The only way I can compare it to is the release speed of a QB. Go watch highlights of Byron Leftwich and Dan Marino. Joe Savery's speed of release is like leftwich's. His arm does not have that lightning fast snap and release that most pitchers have. This lack of deception allows hitters to pick the ball up before it leaves Savery's hand.
So why has this occured? Savery had shoulder problems in college which may contribute to his dead-looking arm. His legs may be heavy and out of shape, which lead to to significant velocity drop when he is pitching from the stretch and the importance of leg drive is amplified.
Savery has two secondary pitches; a slider and changeup. He shows a wide range of velocity for both of these pitches as well. The slider sits between 79mph and 75mph and the change between 76mph and 71mph. Neither is particularly infatuating,and Savery generated 0 (Zero) swings and misses them during this outing. He also has trouble throwing strikes.
You may say, "Eric, this range of velocity is abnormally wide and fishy. What if you're an idiot and couldn't recognize a different type of pitch?" If that is true, and Savery was throwing some sort of 4th pitch I could not recognize, then isn't it sad that the movement on this pitch is so poor that I couldn't differentiate it from his fastball?
Savery's delivery and secondary stuff are not deceptive or effective enough for him to even profile as a lefty specialist. He obviously has issues that need to be worked out, but the issues themselves are not too obvious. We can only theorize what they are. I say shoulder problems and poor lower half conditioning.
Due to the NFL Draft (which is keeping me occupied) I'm a little behind on writing these. I'll post my report on Dice-K later in the day.