Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hey, How About Nick Blackburn?

You may have noticed, over the years, that we don't care much around here about the NBA playoffs. We'd much watch rather a good pitcher's duel than watch Game 1 of Round 1 of the aforementioned NBA playoffs.

And we got one when we watched the Twins play the Indians today. Normally, the Twins have a bit of trouble with the Indians (having lost the last 8 games against them, for example), but today a little heralded pitcher by the name of Nick Blackburn put on a pretty good show, with plenty of help from his defense, and just a little help from his offense. And to be fair, after the first two innings, Cleveland Indians pitcher Jake Westbrook pitched a damn good game, too.

I don't wantt to rehash too much of the game, which you can get from any good summary, but special mention of the defense again, which had 4 double plays (and you know, you don't have double plays unless your pitcher is giving up hits; Blackburn did, but he gave up the right kind of hits. 8 hits, and I think 6 of them were singles.) Also worth mentioning was Delmon Young's gunning down of Asdrubal Cabrera, trying to score from second on a well hit ball to left by Casey Blake. Young one-hopped a ball on a frozen rope to Maurer, who had the plate so well blocked that the ball probably could have been rolled in from left field.

I mainly want to talk about Blackburn, who really is supposed to be in the minors at this moment. It took Liriano starting in the minors, and Kevin Slowey getting dinged up for Blackburn to get an extended look at the major league level.

Blackburn seems to have settled, after throwing less than 12 innings in the majors last year, and starting four games this year, into the Big Leagues pretty well. In his first two starts, he pitched under 11 total innings, and got two no decisions. In his last two starts, he has gone a combined 14.2 innings, and gone 1-1. In his loss, his struck out 6, and gave up one run. That's a quality start that was ruined by the Twins offense. In his second game, this one, against Cleveland, the Twins offense didn't give much room for error, only scoring 3, but it was enough. And he kept Twins Killer Travis Hafner 0-4.

And let's talk a bit about his pitches. He seems to have four or maybe five clearly defined pitches that he feels comfy with. Two of them seem to be a little underused at the moment, simply because they were devastatingly effective when he did throw them. Perhaps if he threw them more often, they'd be less effective. I'm not pitching coach Rich Anderson, so I don't know.

I'm speaking of his slow, looping 12-6 curve, which crossed the plate at around 77 mph, and his straight change, which was crossing at around 82, and I saw that pitch generate his one strikeout, and an important pop-up.

His more commonly used pitches were pretty effective as well; Blackburn's fastball doesn't have a ton of movement, but he locates it well, and hits 96 on the gun. He's got a slider than seems to cross pretty regularly at 88-90 mph.
Photo Credit: AP/Jim Mone
Oh, and Ladies...he's not hard on the eyes, either.

Once Aaron Gleeman is done masturbating to Lori Laughlin, I'm sure he'll weigh in on Blackburn's day.

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