I’m Over Flamethrowers, Give Me a Pitcher Who Can Make The Ball Dance

The New York Mets recently traded Curtis Granderson to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Jacob Rhame, a top prospect with a “high-octane fastball”. Anyone else sick and tired of flamethrowers?

Source: Jacob Rhame, who Mets received for Granderson, has high-octane fastball | SNY

“Rhame’s ranking is the highest among all the prospects the Mets have received while trading Granderson, Lucas Duda, Addison Reed, Jay Bruce, and Neil Walker over the last few weeks.”

Of course, the answer to my question about fireballers will be a resounding “NO!” People love the fastball. Chicks dig the long ball, dudes love power pitchers.

In the movie Major League, Charlie Sheen’s Ricky Vaughn comes into close out the ballgame. His first pitch? Fastball. Second pitch? Faster fastball. His manager mutters, “Forget about the curveball, Ricky. Give ’em the heater”. Indians catcher Jake Taylor throws down the index finger. Vaughn delivers by eclipsing the 100 mph mark. Crowd goes wild. Give the people what they want.

I get it. But, after seeing Noah Syndergaard tear his lat trying to throw actual flames and Aroldis Chapman mired in a slump that earned him a demotion, can we get back to some finesse pitching? Lord of Light, do I loathe Greg Maddux, but hot damn, the dude should’ve been called Van Gogh the way he painted the corners.

Maybe I’m so anti-fastball now because I was never a power pitcher. In Little League, my fastball topped out at around 65. In high school, I managed to hit 81. In college, I might’ve nicked 87 once on the wings of a wind gust. When you can’t blow batters away with hot cheddar, what’s left? Illusion. Deception. Trickery and hoodwinkery.

I had a two-seam fastball, four-seam fastball, sidearm fastball, overhand curve, sidearm slider, and circle change. Four pitches thrown six different ways, all of which could be thrown dangerously close to the strike zone. The variety of looks and speeds was the only thing that kept me on the team.

As pitchers, we always hear about location, location, location. Somewhere along the way, all GMs cared about is velocity, velocity, velocity. That philosophy has won 0 championships. Sure, the Cubs got Chapman down the stretch last season, but he blew the save in Game 7. The Mets had Thor, Matt Harvey, and Jacob DeGrom – all of whom (used to) average 95+ mph on their fastball. Lost to the Royals in five games.

Look at which teams are consistently winning World Series titles over the past two decades: the San Francisco Giants, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Boston Red Sox. I honestly can’t name many pitchers hitting 95+mph on a consistent basis for any of those teams. Hell, the Red Sox had a closer that could barely touch 90!

If this barrage of trades has proven anything, it’s that the Mets haven’t learned their lesson. Yes, they’re getting more pitchers to help out their league-worst staff. But, do the Mets really need more flamethrowers and fireballers? Or Young Guns?

Everyone loves to point to Clayton Kershaw. Well, dude gets hurt and misses a significant chunk of each season every year. Don’t even bother citing Madison Bumgarner, he’s the exception to the rule. He’s not human, unless you put him on an ATV.

By now, it’s obvious. The Mets don’t know how to handle young pitchers. Every single starting pitcher that the Mets highlighted in Spring Training (with the exception of maybe DeGrom) has suffered major injuries – Thor, Harvey, Matz, Wheeler, Lugo, and Gsellman. So, it’s laughable that the franchise keeps feeding us hopes and dreams of returning to the World Series based on this starting rotation. How about some defense? How about a respectable bullpen? How about clutch hitting? How about a pitcher who can pitch?

Stop caring so much about the fastball and start developing guys with a second, third, and *GASP* fourth pitch. Even better, how about movement? You can throw lasers all damn day, but if the ball is moving on a straight line, professional hitters will hop all over it.

Mariano Rivera broke bats, not because of a triple digit fastball, but because his cutter fooled you into thinking the ball was down the middle when it ended up on your handle. Whenever Jeurys Familia got into trouble, it’s because his sinker wasn’t sharp.

I’m not at all excited by the pitchers the Mets traded for. It stings to see the players the Mets traded excel. None of the pitchers acquired seem like they can help the team in the near future. Other than DeGrom and Syndergaard, the starting rotation is taking all applications.

The Mets can’t afford to sit on their hands in free agency this offseason. Or they’ll be sitting on the sidelines for back-to-back postseasons.

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