As I mentioned in my preview of Aaron Brooks' 2nd start for the A's, I was in attendance (section 216) for Brooks' first start so I didn't have the "T.V. view" of Brooks' stuff. I was looking forward to seeing that power sinker/changeup combination that was so successful against the Cleveland Indians.
Color me surprised when Brooks showed a very different repertoire from what I expected to see. The 3rd pitch Brooks threw in the game was a wipeout slider that Altuve reached 1.2 Altuves off the outside corner trying to hit, and throughout the rest of his 7 IP Brooks went to that breaking pitch often -- and almost always effectively.
So whereas the Indians saw mostly sinkers and changeups, with a few mediocre sliders mixed in, the Astros saw more breaking stuff both in quantity as well as in quality. This is good news, as it suggests Brooks may have a legitimate 3-pitch repertoire that will prevent teams from sitting on the sinker or changeup.
As for Brooks' fastball, it sat around 91-92 MPH most of the night and Brooks was able to throw it for strikes even if I thought it was up in the zone a tad more than Brooks might have ideally wanted. This is where the secondary pitches are so key, because batters were not able to eliminate the changeup or slider, which means a pitcher is going to get burned less on his fastball. Sure enough, batters were often a bit late on the fastball even though it is not "high octane".
Brooks' changeup is as advertised. The hitter will tell you how deceptive a changeup is, and clearly batters were unable to recognize it even when Brooks threw it back to back, or multiple times in an at bat. To my eyes the changeup not only has late diving action but it also fades a bit away from a LH batter. With deception, command, and good late action, the changeup looked like a true "plus pitch".
And while no one will ever mistake Brooks' slider for that of Randy Johnson, last night I thought he threw breaking pitches that were more than serviceable. They were actually out pitches and "freeze you" pitches, except when he hung one to Altuve and then it was "batting practice" -- but that was by far the exception and not the rule last night.
Overall, I thought Brooks pitched a great game, one that was in line with the stat sheet. I don't really know what to make of him, in that had he been a top prospect finally getting his big league shot I would be nodding and saying, "Yeah I see why scouts liked him..." but it's a bit hard to figure out how a guy with a perfectly good fastball, great changeup, decent slider, and terrific control doesn't at least make prospect lists.
Has his velocity ticked upward that much? (And wouldn't he still warrant some attention if his fastball sat at 90MPH?) Did his changeup really deceive scouts as much as it deceives hitters?
You intrigue me, Aaron Brooks.