Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"Simple" approach could help Mock

VIERA, Fla. -- Few pitchers in this camp (non-Strasburg division) have been praised as much as Garrett Mock, which may come as a surprise to those who immediately think of the right-hander's 3-10 record and 5.62 ERA during a frustrating 2009.

Mock, though, has always possessed some of the best "stuff" in the organization, and those who watch him closely believe he may finally be learning how to use that stuff to his advantage.

"I thought he made a lot of progress [in September]," manager Jim Riggleman said. "A couple of his no-decisions and losses, the comments I got from opposing managers around the batting cage letting me know what the other hitters had been saying about Mock and the challenge they had against him ... he's a challenge for major-league hitters. I think he was 3-10, but you know, a lot of young guys start their first year, for whatever reason, with losing records. There's a lot of good ones who broke in and just didn't really get it going until the next year. That year is behind us, and we think he's going to learn and grow from it."

Mock, 26, believes he can take the next step this season, thanks to a new approach he began employing late last season at the advice of Tim Foli and Steve McCatty: Keep it simple. Attack hitters. Trust your stuff.

"They had been telling it to me long enough," Mock said. "Last year, I started trying to work on that. I know what happens when I start trying to do too much, make things too difficult. I know what happens when I attack hitters. It's best for everybody – best for me, best for the team – if I go out and attack hitters."

Mock will get his first opportunity to do just that tomorrow when he takes the mound in Kissimmee for the Nats' Grapefruit League opener. He'll start for one split-squad club against the Astros. J.D. Martin will start the other game against the Marlins in Jupiter.

Speaking of the dual openers, here are the lineups and pitchers scheduled to appear in each game...

Managed by Jim Riggleman
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Adam Kennedy
RF Elijah Dukes
1B Chris Duncan
3B Pete Orr
LF Roger Bernadina
DH Josh Whitesell
SS Alberto Gonzalez
C Wil Nieves
P Garrett Mock
Relievers: Shairon Martis, Matt Capps, Drew Storen, Jason Bergmann, Eddie Guardado, Atahualpa Severino, Andrew Kown.


Managed by John McLaren
2B Willie Harris
SS Ian Desmond
C Ivan Rodriguez
1B Adam Dunn
LF Mike Morse
CF Justin Maxwell
3B Eric Bruntlett
RF Jerry Owens
P J.D. Martin
Relievers: Collin Balester, Brian Bruney, Logan Kensing, Ron Villone, Luis Atilano, Juan Jaime, Josh Wilkie, Mike Venafro


Sam said...

Last season, Mock was 3 percent lower than league average in throwing first pitch strikes, and 5 percent lower than league average in throwing the ball in the strike zone at all (I guess you don't really need numbers to see this, but I just wanted to point it out). He also had a high walk rate (4.34 BB/9, almost 1 higher than league average). It seems like hitters were content to take a walk (which is good, I wish we had those type of hitters) and would hit the first pitch they saw in the zone (which, on a 2-0, 2-1, 3-0, 3-1 count is generally a pretty good pitch to hit).

So, in short, I agree. He should attack hitters more, and if he does not do well, then he just isn't good enough to be a Major League starter (I still think he would make a decent reliever, especially since he has potential for a high K/9).

Anonymous8 said...

I think Mock is a bit of a head case. He has great stuff when there is no pressure then you get him into a game and he can not get it done.

He should seriously consider making an investment in a sports psychiatrist. I have heard they have done great things with hitters and especially pitchers. No joke.

phil dunn said...

The early spring training weather in Viera has got to be very disappointing again this year. This mornings temp is 49 degrees with a real feel of 39 degrees. This seems to happen every year in Viera but it is even worse this year. Mark, are there any rumblings about the Nationals seeking a warmer climate for spring training, like southern FL or AZ. This weather has got to be tough on the pitchers.

Positively Half St. said...

I'm amazed that Logan Kensing is still anywhere near this organization.

As for Mock, I think that the Nats are due to have somebody they picked up in a trade take a huge step forward. I mean, c'mon- isn't that how it happens for other organizations? You take a chance on some folks and eventually at least a few work out great. The Nats just don't seem to have had any luck that way.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Anonymous8. Mock just seems to lose composure after anyone gets on base. He slows down, which leads to the fielders losing focus.

Learning to throw strikes consistently would be a first step.

This is why I'm a fan of Stammen and Martin -- they throw strikes, work fast and don't lose their cool if someone gets on base.


Chris Needham said...

Why do we always assume a player who's having a hard time is a head case? Can't a player just suck without it being mental? Do the 90% of baseball players who never sniff the majors all have things wrong with their heads?

Kevin Rusch said...

Mark, I just gotta say, you're my hero. I've really missed baseball. And I desperately hope the nats aren't that bad this year.

NatsNut said...

Doesn't have to be a head case to see a sports psychologist. Lannan went to one in the offseason before the '07 season. Dude was destined to be a nobody, but in '07 he skyrocketed from single A to the bigs, and just two weeks after his debut, same year remember, he struck out Barry when he was sitting on 755, in San Francisco, flash bulbs exploding with every pitch.

Don't know if he has a pair because of the sports psychologist but I'd be willing to bet is didn't hurt him.

peric said...

Its still early. Kensing will likely be the closer in Syracuse again until Storen gets there. The other closers for SYR left via free agency and rule 5. Half-Street its not like the Nats minors are swimming in prospects as in the Boston and Texas systems. They still need these guys, and they do provide depth in case someone goes down.

peric said...

JD Martin along with Stammen will likely be your next "Lannans".

markfd said...

Mark -

Thanks for the update on Mock and the split squad lineups.

Mock has an awesome curveball and I had the privilege of seeing it from behind homeplate once. It seems like Mock's only issue is knowning exactly when to throw the right pitch and this is something Pudge will be able to help him with as Mock has never been able to work with someone of his caliber.

As for the split squad pitchers, interesting additions from the split squad camps.

Wally said...

It doesn't surprise me that the organization is touting Mock. If you look at the group of rotation hopefuls, they are essentially lefty/righty versions of the same pitcher. Stammen, Martin, Martis, ballester, Livan, Olsen, Lannan, and the 'old' Chico are all soft tossing, control guys. Almost all can barely hit 90. Some have better command than others, but they present the same look to the other team in terms of velocity and pitching style, which over a 3 or 4 game series can really let batters get locked in. Mock hits 96 and presents a different look, which benefits the Nats more right now than if they had SS and Z'mann going 1 and 2. So it is no surprise to me that the organization is really hoping that Mock takes that next step forward more than Martin or Martis (and if 'new' Chico is really pitching at 92, then he is a different look too). But the dude needs to get people out, or none of that matters.

peric said...

Trevor Holder and Nate Karns are probably the only other guys who can hit the kind of velocities that Mock can. Holder has command of more pitches and throws strikes but appears to have a similar problem when it comes to pitch selection. But he does aggressively challenge hitters. It may be that these guys will move up fast and appear on the top prospects radar. One can only hope. With JZimm down for the foreseeable future they may be the only guys who might fit into that 1, 2, 3 slot in the future.

Sam said...

@Wally: Balester's average fastball velocity in his 110 major league innings is 91.5. He is not a soft-tosser. Mock's average velocity is 91.1. He's not exactly throwing gas out there. I see your point, but I don't think the organization is really touting him that much. Dibble was last year, a lot.

peric said...

Juan Jaime who is in camp also is said to have tremendous arm strength. But he lacks the command of additional pitches like Holder and even Karns. He is probably slated to be a reliever.

NatsNut said...

Hey, Mark. A little off-topic here. I LOVE getting the audio by email, but can you do me a favor. Can you please tell whoever keeps asking Riggleman if Strasburg is going to make the team out of spring training TO SHUT UP.

Seriously. Not sure if I speak for the others, but that's not really the burning question anymore. Even if it were, we got the same answer, like, every day since he threw his first bullpen.

I love hearing the reactions to his stuff, don't mind the bullpen session analyses, can't wait to hear how he does next week. But I'm really kind of sick of hearing the same answer about him making the team or not.

Thank you for your support.

RQB said...

Mock will be the 5th Starter, Martin goes back to SYR and Stammen goes to the pen.

Opening Rotation:
Olsen or Chico (whoever is healthy)

The Pen:

Wally said...

@Sam - you are right that Balester isn't the same type of pitcher as the others, and I shouldn't have included him in that list. But I would be very surprised if any of the others averaged 90 mph on the FB.

I think that the perception (if not reality) of Bally as a flyball pitcher and Mock as a groundball pitcher is what distinguishes them in the Nats minds.

By the way, where did you find that info on velocity? Balester seems about right but Mock seems low. Not doubting your data, it is just different from how I usually see it reported and what I remembered from the TV guns, which I know aren't considered as reliable.

Sam said...

I use

That is Mock's page. They have a ton of stats (both classical and sabermetric).

Steve M. said...

A head case doesn't neccesarily mean the guy is nuts. Mock has the tools so it could be something as simple as nerves, concentration, or lacking the killer confidence you need.

I felt the same way about the relief pitcher Hinckley who was DFA'd and Hanrahan.

Many pitchers have gone to Sports Psychiatrists. Some teams have them readily available. As NatsNut said, it was rumored Lannan consulted with a sports psych.

It would be great to get Mark's take on it.

Mark Zuckerman said...

My take (since you all asked for it): Mock is the classic example of a pitcher who is gifted enough to possess great "stuff" but feels the need to nibble around the strike zone and do everything himself instead of letting his fielders do the work. Trust that your stuff is good enough to get big-league hitters out, then watch your pitch count go way down and give yourself a chance to make it through the fifth or sixth inning without wilting.

Steve M. said...

Mark, thanks. Sounds like the old Randy St. Claire strategy of pitching with the nibbling and we all know that young pitchers don't get the Greg Maddux strike calls!

Good observation on your part although still would love a piece on sports psychs!

Sam said...

Mark, that comment reminds me so much of Tony Armas. He had such great "stuff" but was afraid to use it. Javier Vazquez was the same way in his first couple of years. He looked unhittable one inning, and then he would give up absolute bombs to weak hitters.

I was looking over Mock's splits by month. His best month came in August (9.09 K/9, 4.41 BB/9, 0.83 HR/9), and his second best month was September/October (5.91 K/9, 4.50 BB/9, 0.84 HR/9). The most impressive thing about those months is that his HR rate went down a ton compared to July (1.98 HR/9). One huge difference between August and September, though, is that Mock's GB/FB ratio went from 1.14 to 2.19. I am confused as to why his stats got worse when his FB rate went down. My best guess is that in August, with Nyjer still aorund (for most of the month), a lot of the flyballs he gave up turned into lazy outs. I'm still at a loss for September, though.

Another interesting thing is that Mock induced 16.2% infield flyballs (i.e. pop outs) in August. Maybe he was trusting his fastball more, knowing that if it was hit hard to the outfield, it would be caught (especially with Dunn no longer there). And then when Morgan got hurt, he felt he had to induce more ground ball outs. He also gave up more line drives in September. So, my guess is that he wasn't getting his fastball high enough to jam the hitters.

Who knows? I'm just throwing out theories here. I wanted to continue the Mock discussion. Anyone else have any ideas for the weird splits by month?

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_is_Too_Pessimistic_for_Me said...

Garrett Mock: The poor man's Daniel Cabrera.

Mock will break your heart, as well as your pitch count. He would go 3-and-2 on Mother Teresa. And probably walk her.

I will mark the improvement of thie organization's pitching staff when I see the likes of Mock, Chico, Bally-Star and Martin in my rear view mirror.

peric said...

As Chico Harlan predicted on his way out: Stammen or Martin or both will become two reliable performers the team will come to depend on. I agree, especially on JD Martin. You can take that to the bank.

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