Posted: 1:00 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013
By David Coleman
Some things to talk about while Siri becomes a fan of the Astros...
Last weekend, Jason Castro was asked why Brad Peacock has been so much more successful this time around in the majors and he had a simple answer. Castro said Peacock has learned a slider.
Ever since then, I've been dying dig into this mystery. Did he actually learn a new pitch in the six weeks he was down at Oklahoma City? Did he have a slider before but not throw it very often? What's going on here?
Turns out, Castro was spot on. From the beginning of the season through June 8, Peacock threw a ton of pitches, but all of them were either fastballs, changeups or curves. Then, all of a sudden, in August, Peacock started throwing this new pitch.
The pitch breaks about half as much horizontally as Peacock's knuckle-curve, and sinks about as much as a normal sinker. It's also quickly become Peacock's only pitch that's above-average by run value this season.
But, did he just learn it? Was it something he scrapped in a previous season?
Nope, it's totally new. In his stint in 2011 with the Nationals, he didn't throw any sliders. Going back to the 2010 season, neither John Sickels or Baseball America mentioned a slider being in his repertoire. In fact, BA specifically said he threw a fastball, knuckle-curve and a change with nothing else.
Now, that doesn't mean he's never been familiar with a slider before. After all, he's been pitching a long time. It's definitely possible that he threw a slider at some point in the past. The change this time could be his effectiveness. Maybe the Triple-A staff taught him a new grip on it or how to follow through on the pitch to make it effective.
Whatever the case, it's quickly become a very good pitch for Peacock and effectively raises his ceiling a bit. With four decent pitches, you can definitely see Peacock sticking as a starter long-term.
Our friend John Sickels checks in on one of Houston's two signees from the Mexican League. Japhet Amador is plenty intriguing and Sickels sees him making a push for the Astros roster next season.
At age 26, Amador is a finished product. He should start in Triple-A and could see the Houston roster next year, challenging Chris Carter. I don't know what they have here, but I like the fact that Amador is getting a shot.
As Sickels notes, the interesting thing about Amador's defense is that, even though he's such a large man, he has a pretty good fielding percentage at first base. That suggests he's not a "butcher," as Sickels said, at first, and could give Houston some flexibility in the field there.
If he can provide similar power to Carter with less strikeouts (and less walks), is that a good tradeoff?
David Martinez became the 82nd rookie to make his debut with the Astros this year and he held up reasonably well against a tough Rangers team. Martinez pitched 2 2/3 innings in relief, allowing a hit and an unearned run while striking out one.
"David Martinez was outstanding," Bo Porter said. "He came in a tough situation against the American League Player of the Month and was able to induce a groundball double play and get us out of a big situation. He did a tremendous job of getting the ball to the back end in a position in which he gave us an opportunity to win a ballgame."
Any production Houston can get out of Martinez this year is gravy. It gets him acclimated to the big leagues and prepared to compete for a spot on this staff next year. Will he be a starter? Probably not. But, given his minor league success, any time in the majors getting used to major league hitters is a good thing. A little success and he could blossom unexpectedly.
Oh, and he also fixes a dreadful bullpen that continues to haunt the few Astros fans left.