86 percent of Angels reliever Ernesto Frieri’s pitches thrown last season were fastballs. Despite the patently predictable approach, the 27-year-old has enjoyed immense success in his brief Major League career, owning a 2.32 ERA in 162.2 innings. He also has one of the highest strikeout rates among all relievers. Only five have posted a better K/9 since 2010 (minimum 100 IP as a reliever):
- Craig Kimbrel: 15.89
- Kenley Jansen: 14.58
- Aroldis Chapman: 14.13
- Carlos Marmol: 13.43
- Antonio Bastardo: 12.38
- Ernesto Frieri: 12.04
Frieri knows that Major League hitters can only be fooled by fastballs for so long, though, so he has worked on adding a cut fastball and a change-up to his arsenal this spring. Thus far, he is enjoying the results.
A day after Ernesto Frieri made his spring debut, he and catcher John Hester were both pleased with the development of the pitcher’s new cutter and changeup. Frieri was ecstatic after inducing a groundout on a changeup in Saturday’s game.
“That tells me everything I’m doing here, all the hard work, is good,” Frieri said this morning. “I’m going to continue doing it. That’s a good pitch, a really good pitch. I just need to get more comfortable and get more confidence, throw it like my fastball.”
Frieri allowed one hit in his only inning of work in spring training so far. The right-hander figures to be a crucial part of the back of the Angels’ bullpen behind closer Ryan Madson.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉