On Cunningham, Patterson, And My Lying Eyes

The trouble with "eyeball scouting" is that sometimes you see things but that doesn't mean you can explain them. I'm curious to get the community's take on two especially puzzling major league samples, those turned in by Aaron Cunningham and Eric Patterson, both of whose callups have shared the same phenomena: Swinging through fastballs.

In Cunningham, you have a hitter who has raked at every minor league level and who, as a result, projects to be a pretty good major league hitter. In Patterson, you have a hitter capable of turning AAA into his own "Hey look, I'm Curtis Granderson!"fest. Yet in both, you have players who have not only failed to turn in good major league numbers overall in their cups of coffee (still adding up to small samples, aka "decaf"), but more surprisingly who have looked positively Jack Hannahan in swinging right through fastballs.

Of all things. In the minors, you have plenty of pitchers who can't command their offspeed stuff or throw enough fastballs for strikes. The one thing you generally get, though, is pitchers who can throw a fastball reasonably hard -- so if the thing you can't do as a hitter is make contact with a good single-A fastball, that's going to catch up to you faster than if you can't recognize a major league slider.

So then maybe you argue that major league breaking pitches and changeups are so much better than those of AAA that the Cunninghams and Pattersons are forced to wait longer and can no longer catch up to the good fastball. Yet we know (because they say so and we believe them) that hitters almost all "look fastball and adjust to offspeed pitches."

This is where my lying eyes come in. The stat-savvy part of me knows that Cunningham's track record and age suggest he will in fact hit big league pitching, so then I'm stuck trying to reconcile the scouting report I would have had if I just saw him play but didn't know his age or track record with the one I actually believe: That somehow, for some reason, he will probably come back up at some point soon and start connecting with the same fastballs he missed in earlier stints. Why?

Let me know your thoughts on Cunningham and Patterson, and why sometimes a good hitting prospect can't connect with a basic major league fastball for a while when they actually can. And share your thoughts about other "lying eyes" scouting that confounds your sensibilities. And have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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