Recently, I was fortunate enough to have a very lengthy, very enlightening one-on-one chat with Somerset Patriots pitching coach Daniel Moskos. Just 35 years old, the former major-leaguer — he was the fourth overall pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2007 — has quickly emerged as a fast riser in the coaching ranks in the Yankees organization, thanks in large part to the attention to detail he’s able to provide with each pitcher he works with as someone who has a deep understanding of some of the analytics and new technology that’s helping to shape the game as we know it today.
And we’ll get to that story…soon.
But for the first piece I wanted to put together off of my chat with the affable South Carolina native — feel like I’ve written that sentence in Somerset before — I first wanted to simply pass along some comments on some of the more talked about arms that currently call TD Bank Ballpark home.
LUIS GIL — ON HOW MUCH HAVING THE SLIDER ADDED TO HIS REPERTOIRE IN PLACE OF THE CURVEBALL HAS BENEFITTED HIM
“I think it’s always about having something you trust. Even if a pitch shape is great and it might be effective, you still don’t know what’s going on in the pitcher’s head about his confidence in the pitch. If he doesn’t have confidence, then he’s not going to throw it, and that’s kind of the delicate balance. Right now, Luis Gil, you can see he’s got confidence to throw his slider. He’ll throw three in a row, he’ll throw four in a row, or he might save it in his back pocket for when he really needs it. That’s pitching, and that’s that cat and mouse game that you’re playing with a guy where you’re trying to stay one step ahead of the hitter and not be predictable or fall into a pattern. To be able to have that put-away weapon and, not just to have it as a put-away weapon, but a pitch he feels like he can get ahead with early in the count too now, that’s where you really see true development for him. He’s always had the big-time fastball, he’s got a big-time arm. He knows that, when in doubt, he can reach back for 98-99 miles per hour. And that’s important too.
“But, as you get to Double-A, Triple-A, the big leagues, you’re not going to get through a lineup multiple times with just a fastball. Realistically, you’re probably not going to get through a lineup multiple times with just a fastball and a slider. That’s where, with starters, you want to have that third pitch. So, that’ll probably be the place to start for Luis now that the slider is working really well for him, is OK, what’s that third pitch going to look like for him to help him. If he can develop that third pitch, you’re talking about a guy who is no longer just a high-leverage bullpen arm, you’re talking about a guy who could be a top of the rotation starter. When you talk about bringing value to the organization, we’re talking about a completely different ballgame as far as how the organization would look at him. Luis is an exciting guy, he’s got an exciting arm. He’s got that energy and emotion every time he goes out, and that’s fun. He’s still got the ‘little kid’ in him, baseball’s fun. But, he’s also an extreme competitor when he’s on the mound. He’s happy-go-lucky when he’s off the field, but he’s ultra-competitive when he’s on the field, and I love that about him.”
GIL — ON REFINING THAT POTENTIAL THIRD PITCH
“That’s definitely something that’s part of his future development. But, you don’t want to put too much on guys’ plates. You do want to make sure they’re feeling comfortable and confident with the two weapons, and then finding time to develop that third one. It’s a pitch (changeup) that he does use at times. It’s not a high-usage percentage right now. But, he’s working on it, and we’re working on it in the bullpens to make sure he gets repetition with it so he can develop that comfort with it.”
GIL — ON RELYING ON THE SLIDER OFTEN THE SECOND/THIRD TIME THROUGH, AND HOW TO KNOW WHEN THE PITCH IS REALLY WORKING FOR HIM
“Judge by the way the hitters are approaching it. You saw some really bad swings on it (in his last outing), and those are usually when you can tell it’s moving really well. Also, (the New Hampshire) lineup is one that really hunts fastballs early in the count, and especially in advantage counts, so when you see them take some called strikes in fastball counts on a slider, you know that he’s got them guessing and has got them off-balance. The swings and misses are a good indicator, and then maybe some called strikes and taken strikes in fastball counts is another good indicator that he’s pretty locked in; he’s getting the swings and misses out of the zone, but he’s also commanding it in the zone when he needs to.”
JANSON JUNK — ON JUNK’S COMMENTS ON HOW HE’S WORKED ON HIS SLIDER TO BE MORE EFFECTIVE VS. RHH THIS SEASON
“It’s definitely big for him, and it’s actually turned into not just his best pitch, but really one of the better sliders that we have. It’s really been big. Where that pitch came from was really this off-season and over the shutdown period last year when we lost our season, he was a guy that was assigned to me for that shutdown period. He worked his tail off, let’s not fail to mention that. I can’t take credit for that. But he’s always been really receptive and responsive to information, always wanting to learn and always wanting to get better. That makes it easy sometimes. Obviously, there has to be some success and positive reinforcement there, and finding out when there is a bad session or some bad reps with the pitch, ask where adjustment needs to be made. He crushed it. But, where that development came was over the summer months last year, getting on some pitch tracking tech and finding out what was working and what wasn’t working; going through his cues and finding a place where it was simple enough and also led him in a good direction to refine that pitch and hone in on the shape of it.”
GLENN OTTO — ON HIM BEING A FOUR-PITCH GUY, AND THE VALUE THAT BRINGS FOR HIM
“He leans pretty heavily on the first three, which would be fastball, curveball, slider. The changeup, he kind of lost it for a little bit, but he’s been getting it back and he’s been finding times to mix it in. We’ve been working on it in the bullpen and on the side to make sure that we don’t just neglect it, but at the same time, it’s also important to know what your best weapons are and making sure that you don’t get beat with your fourth-best pitch in a situation where you probably should have used one of your top three. It’s a delicate balance there as well, in making sure that we talk about finding situations to use it and things like that. We’ve also faced some pretty righty-dominant lineups, and that’s probably a pitch that he’s going to use more to left-handed hitters. So, there’s been some scarce options to use it, but he’s picking his times to go ahead and mix it in there. But, he’s still a four-pitch guy, and his pitch package is pretty strong right now. Some results aren’t going the way he wants, but then you see outings where he puts it all together and 14 of his 16 outs are recorded via strikeout. You see what the potential is in there when he’s locked in.”
ON, WITH ORGANIZATIONS OFTEN TRYING TO NARROW DOWN A PITCHERS PITCH SELECTION, IF OTTO MAINTAINING FOUR IS UNCOMMON
“It just depends on the guy. You always have to go back and apply that to the specific person. It’s not always as simple as saying, ‘more weapons are better,’ because in adding a weapon, it’s not just adding a finger to the catcher’s signs. It’s if you can throw this pitch for a strike, is it more of an even-count offering or an advantage-count offering, do I use it to righties or lefties or both…there’s a lot of things to consider when you’re adding a pitch, so it’s not always as simple as, ‘if we’re adding ten percent usage, where does that ten percent come from…do we take it away from the fastball, the curveball, whatever the current pitch package is.’ You only get 100 percent usage, it isn’t like you can just bump the numbers up, so you have to make sure it’s the right equation in taking away usage from somewhere and applying it to somewhere else.”
GREG WEISSERT: ON HIS SLIDER, AND HOW MUCH OF A CONSCIOUS CHOICE OFTEN PITCHING BACKWARDS IN USING IT IS:
“Again, it’s identifying the specific pitchers and what their strengths are. He’s got an unbelievable slider. You want to make sure that you’re maximizing the usage of that. With him, he can throw it arm side, he can throw it glove side, he can really pitch with it. When a right-handed batter is trying to approach that pitch, with it moving so much, if he’s able to move it and throw it to different parts of the zone, it almost becomes two different pitches in the way that they’re seeing it and what their approach has to be for it. But, really, that pitch is just so good that you want to lean heavily on a guy’s strengths. Especially, playing in the old school era where at one point I was throwing like 75 percent fastballs, which back in the day was relatively normal. As we’re finding out, we’re seeing that number trend down and down, and we’re seeing all-time lows for fastball usage year after year and it continues to trend down. And there’s a reason for that, the offspeed pitches are just tougher to hit. So, you’re going to see guys rely more heavily on that, even amongst starters. When you’re a reliever, you’re going to go to your strengths, especially Greg and pitching in leverage situations; one or two-run games with runners on, and we’ve got to make sure he can do what he’s doing to get the job done.”
ON WHY WEISSERT’S SLIDER IS AS EFFECTIVE AS IT IS:
“It’s a combination of everything. The spin, it’s got a very high-spin profile, it’s got way-above average total movement, and then the command piece and knowing how to throw it in and out of the zone. He’s got a little bit of a lower arm slot, and it just has so much total movement, that I don’t want to be a right-handed hitter trying to hit it, that’s for sure.”
ON STEPHEN RIDINGS, AND HOW CRUCIAL THE CONTINUED DEVELOPMENT OF HIS BREAKING BALL IS FOR HIM TO MOVE UP THE LADDER:
“Huge. The average fan or average viewer might not notice it, but I can take you back to the first series against Harrisburg where he threw pretty much all fastballs. I think he mixed in maybe a couple breaking balls, but they weren’t anywhere close enough to the zone for the hitter to even respect it. You saw him sitting 98-100, and yet guys are fouling balls off and fouling balls off and not blown away by them and eventually putting a ball in play and getting out, but it taking 10-11 pitches…you fast forward, and kudos to him, he’s worked really hard on implementing this pitch and at least making sure he’s working it in. There was the first road series, and in his first outing there, he mixed in some pretty decent sliders and he wasn’t throwing as hard in this particular outing. He goes first pitch fastball at I think 97, slider for a strike and then he blows a guy away with 96 up in the zone. Whereas, in the previous series, against probably not as good of a lineup, guys were getting to his 98, 99, 100 and then all of a sudden against New Hampshire, you see him blowing away a guy with 96. I told him, ‘Look, that is your perfect case example of why you can’t just live off your fastball.’ You have to use something to slow them down so that you can speed them back up. That’s kind of the development for him in learning how to pitch; it’s not always hard, hard, hard. Every fastball that you throw speeds that batter up a little bit. He gets a little bit more on time and a little bit more on time. Eventually, he’s going to be on time, no matter how hard you’re throwing. That’s why you’re seeing fastball usage go down, it’s a straighter pitch and it stays on plane. If you ask any hitter, usually, what pitch they want to hit, their answer is going to be the fastball. If you can set that up and make it a better pitch just by mixing in a couple sliders here and there, it goes a long way for the effectiveness of that fastball.”