My Randall Delgado story, and why I believe in him.

Well, that was really something yesterday wasn't it?

First of all, I want to open this post by offering a sincere apology to all you Talking Choppers for the unwarranted posts I made in the first part of that first "pre-Dempstergate" thread. I displayed the same irrational hatred of this proposed trade that I've come down on some of you for displaying against Jair Jurrjens. It was totally out of bounds and against the high standards I have for myself when it comes to posting my thoughts here. So, I'm sorry guys. I'll try not to let it happen again.

Having said all that, I want to try and explain to y'all why this proposed trade, which would have sent an aging, sure-to-regress crap pitcher hurling WAY above his head to my beloved Braves, set me off like no other proposed trade could have. First though, I wish to quickly address something that is off-topic in regards to this post:

  1. I still believe in JJ. I know many (most?) of you do not anymore, and that's ok. But...
  2. I operate under the surety that JJ is hurting. Watching him pitch in comparison to the time he was "good" for us, I can see that he is dealing with some kind of shoulder or arm issue. This is my observation, and as our boy willlan (sp?) has suggested, I am not paid for it. So take it FWIW.
  3. Because I believe he is hurting, and because he is still a Brave, he has my unconditional support. I believe he also deserves the support of all Braves fans. Again, if you don't, that's ok. I can certainly understand why you don't.
  4. JJ should either be sent to AAA or AA on a kind of unofficial rehab assignment, or placed on the 15- or 60-day DL outright to fix whatever is ailing him. I know that this might make him unavailable to the Braves for most of the remaining year. I'm okay with that, and I'm sure most you are, too.

Now then, on to Delgado:

First off, let me repeat something I divulged yesterday, and like my observations of JJ's health status, you can take it FWIW. I was pitcher for the first part of my life, starting as a 13-year old Little Leaguer (Or Dixie Boys league, as it was known in Georgia at the time), continuing in four years of high school (one year on the freshman team, three years in varsity), and two years in college pitching in the Missouri Valley Conference. It all came to an end when I transferred to a Big Ten school, where I failed to qualify for a roster spot. The competition for making the team was like nothing I had ever seen before, and I simply didn't have what it took to pitch in that setting. It tasks me to this day, but I'm okay with it for the most part. It's been a long time since. I'm currently an assistant coach at one of the local high schools, working with the team's pitchers. Anyway, I tell you all this so you can understand why I believe that I know something about evaluating pitchers.

On July 16, 2012, I went to see the G-Braves play against the Indianapolis Indians. The starting pitcher was Randall Delgado. He got rocked; I'm gonna state that right off the bat. He pitched 5 innings, giving up 6 hits (2 were HRs) and 6 ER, with 1 BB and 5 K. Not the most overwhelming performance, and it turned out to be his only minor league start of 2012. I was sitting behind home plate with a notebook, cuz I wanted to evaluate for myself this pitcher who had been demoted instead of Mike Minor.

What really struck me that day was two things: One, he really does telegraph his pitches with his delivery. I won't make some other team's scout easier by saying how (yes, the chances that another team's scout is reading this is exceedingly rare, but I still won't do it). Besides, many of you already know what he is doing to tip his pitches, as I've read it already posted in the threads. Two, was his righty/lefty splits: RH batters went 4-for-12, with 2 HR (2-run and 3-run, each), one single and one double, 1 K and 1 BB, 3 FO and 2 GO, and one sac fly. LH batters: 2-for-9 ( a single and a double), with 4 K and 1 BB, 1 FO and 2 GO, and a popup.

Normally one might expect lefties to give a RHP more trouble than righties. Clearly this was not the case in this game. RH batters hit him for .333, and two of those hits were HR accounting for 5 of the 6 runs that Delgado surrendered (and a sac fly accounting for the other). Furthermore, he only managed 1 K against them, while he rang up 4 LH batters. Overall, lefties hit him for only a .222 avg...again, one does not normally expect a RHP to struggling against RH hitters, while at the same time proving so effective against LH hitters. Why was it so in this case?

While I cannot say for sure, I think that some of those RH batters picked up on his flawed delivery. It also isn't helping that he lacks a decisive third offering that can get RH hitters out. Meanwhile, his change-up is a plus pitch that is a really effective offering to LH hitters. His fastball is Major League level, but that and his change-up simply isn't enough to carry him to the top of a Major League rotation (it has been noted by one commenter that with his two plus offerings, he is at best a #3 starter). I believe he really needs a third pitch that he can throw 10-20 times at a RH hitter, that he has confidence in, and that itself is an overall plus offering.

In my opinion, that third pitch should be either a sinker, or a cutter. To be a complete starting pitcher, he also needs to develop a solid breaking pitch. Also in my opinion, that breaking pitch should be a standard 12-6 curveball. I think Roger McDowell is the perfect guy to teach him the sinker, as that was the main component of his repertoire during his major league career...and it was absolutely fantastic/filthy. We have certainly noticed that Tim Hudson has a pretty good sinker himself. While not a strikeout kind of pitch, with a solid defense behind him it becomes a great pitch to get those RH hitters out, or at least keep those batted balls inside the park. If he prefers to learn a pitch to ring them up with a K, I believe the cutter would serve that purpose perfectly, as would a solid curveball. While his fastball is certainly MLB-ready, he tends to leave it up in the zone, tailing in to righties, thus practically teeing it up to those hitters who are getting their second look at Delgado through the order. And so the need for a sinker/cutter and a curveball is manifest.

While he is at it, he needs to fix his delivery. He simply cannot progress as a major league pitcher without doing so. But of all things he needs to do, this is the easiest to correct. In the short term, changing his delivery may upset his routine and lead to some ugly numbers. But after that period of adjustment and with a couple shiny new offerings in his arsenal, I think his ceiling becomes a 1 starter on some teams, or a 2 on others. I would even go so far as to say that if he really masters the sinker/cutter and curveball, he has Ace potential that exceeds what we have in Julio Teheran. Yeah, I know. Controversial statement there, and I'll admit a lot of that is based on guts and heart.

My parents drive for FedEx Custom Critical, making all sorts of package deliveries all across the continent (U.S. and Canada. They refuse to make deliveries in Mexico). One day in 2011, they made one such delivery to the G-Braves stadium in Gwinnett. They gave me a call when they got there and asked if I wanted anyone's autograph, because they were in the clubhouse making this delivery. I said that I wanted Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, and/or Randall Delgado.

Well, they only managed to get Delgado's signature. It was on a game program (as luck would have it, they were playing the Indianapolis Indians), and it is currently framed and hanging on the wall behind my computer. When I saw that he had a scheduled start in Indianapolis, I jumped at the chance to see him pitch, and I bought the best seats possible to get the best possible view of him and his pitches. I really have a special place in my heart for this guy. Is that coloring my perception? I'll let you judge that for yourselves. I'm okay with that. Just for myself, I believe in Randall Delgado. He is gonna be something special if he works out the kinks and gains more seasoning in either Gwinnett or Atlanta. I prefer he gets that seasoning in Atlanta (like Tom Glavine did), but I trust the front office to make the best decision for both Delgado and the Braves.

What do you think? I'm looking forward to reading your comments.

P.S. I would have loved to be able to talk to him after the game, as players tend to be really accessible after the game is over. As it is, I'm in generally poor health, and I had to hit the road shortly after Delgado left the game after the fifth.

This FanPost does not express the views or opinions of Talking Chop.

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