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Eyeball Scout Has Kendall Graveman’s Back

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Boston Red Sox v Oakland Athletics
“Sorry, but we need someone who can hang a slider to Moreland.”
Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

No doubt, for 4 starts Kendall Graveman was bad and his 9.87 ERA told the tale. Last night, however, was the bounce back start we’ve waiting for — one that ultimately saw Graveman’s ERA rise to 10.07.

It has already been dissected how Graveman’s line (5+IP, 6ER) was largely the result of fluky or seeing-eye singles, and Emilio Pagan needing just one pitch to allow 3 inherited runners to score. Graveman arguably threw only one bad pitch all night, the HR by Jackie Bradley Jr. which followed a single by Raphael Devers that looked like he was hitting out of a sand trap and a chopper off the plate that managed to bounce over Matt Chapman’s head instead of starting a 5-4-3 DP.

Then in the 6th, a nice piece of hitting by Andrew Benintendi to serve a ball the other way was sandwiched in between two ground balls randomly placed to the hole — had the latter one, of the bat of Hanley Ramirez, been a few feet to either side it’s the key DP for which Graveman was searching.

Was Graveman victimized by being too dependent on luck? That is definitely an issue for sinker ball pitchers and their reliance on batted balls, but last night Graveman was far from a “pitch to contact” pitcher, striking out 6 in his 5+ IP.

However, the Eyeball Scout is about the pitches that make up the pitcher and so this post is not just a rant about poor luck or a generalized notion that Graveman threw better than his line would suggest. Here is what the Eyeball Scout saw last night which corroborated the claim that Graveman turned a corner:

- With his simplified windup (no arms over the head), Graveman’s delivery appeared to be more repeatable than it has been his first 4 starts. Not only did Graveman throw 54 of his 92 pitches for strikes, he was consistently able to locate his sinker right at the knees, often nailing the “black” on the outside corner to LHs. This was evidenced in the fact that Graveman did not record a single fly ball out (unfortunately his one bad pitch was hit in the air and into the bleachers). Overall, Graveman had a much better idea of where his pitches were going.

- The running action on Graveman’s sinker was truly impressive. Probably the best eyeball example was a sinker down and in that Eduardo Nuñez swung and missed to strike out ending the top of the 4th. When you see hitters swinging over the sinker that’s a good sign; when you see them tied up and confused — see Christian Vasquez’ strikeout in the top of the 5th — that’s a great sign.

- I continue to like Graveman’s changeup, which apparently he sharpened up after talking with Trevor Cahill between starts. Last night it was extremely solid, deceptive and down in the zone and able to get swings-and-misses or weak contact. While I am no fan of his breaking pitch, an offering I feel should be limited to “stealing a strike” in a fastball count, I do think Graveman’s changeup has the potential to be a semi-regular part of his arsenal.

Graveman was so good last night, even in the 6th inning, that I thought at 92 pitches the best move when he loaded the bases with nobody out would have been to leave him in. He was getting ground balls and strikeouts and had confused Mitch Moreland in each previous at bat, and the A’s did not have a lefty up to neutralize Moreland. (I would say in that spot, go to Buchter or leave Graveman in.) Of course undoubtedly Moreland still would have hit a grand slam because Moreland-at-the-Coliseum, but I did not even think Graveman was showing signs of being ‘out of gas’ — just maybe out of luck.

In any event, while they do not count ‘moral victories’ in the standings or on the stat sheet, to my eyes Graveman pitched at least at the level where you would reasonably expect a line of 6 IP, 2 ER and somehow everything conspired to make the line look a whole lot worse. But come out with this exact stuff next time and I expect Graveman will finally have a start in which even the stat line agrees he was excellent. Which he was last night.

Poll

How did your eyes see Graveman’s start last night?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Pitch like this all the time and he’s the solid #3 SP we’ve been hoping for
    (174 votes)
  • 37%
    He was better than the stat line but not all that great
    (183 votes)
  • 7%
    The stat line don’t lie — it was more of the same
    (38 votes)
  • 18%
    Time for AAA, bring up Brett Anderson
    (88 votes)
483 votes total Vote Now