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June 2, 2010

A scout's differing opinion on Matusz

After watching Brian Matusz pitch Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, I am sure many of you took comfort that he shook off some bad outings and pitched well.

The kid is a rookie after all and is going to take his lumps, but when you can pitch like he did on baseball’s biggest stage Tuesday it has to impress.

That said, I had an interesting conversation with a scout last week that I wanted to share with you. Jeff Z and I were talking to scouts about the Orioles’ young hitters for Tuesday’s story. I was chatting with one of them – before Matusz’s start on Tuesday, by the way – and the overall team came up. Remember, I wasn’t grilling him, or anyone else, about the team’s pitching. And it's only one person's opinion.

The scout said the Orioles’ real problem is that they don’t have anyone who projects as a future ace. I quickly pounced on that, asking him about Matusz, who most scouts view as a No. 1 or No. 2 because he can throw four quality pitches for strikes.

But this scout, who I promise you has impressive credentials and is well-respected by his peers, isn’t buying Matusz as a future ace. (By the way, he only saw Tillman briefly last year, and never Arrieta, so he didn’t want to talk about them at length).

“He has no one outstanding pitch,” the scout said of Matusz. “Most times, your front of the rotation guys have at least one dominating pitch. He doesn’t have that pitch that he can go to when he has got to get a guy out. He has pitchability, but he has to be exact with his fastball to have success. He has got to be exact with his pitches to be effective. This is not a knock against the kid. He is going to be a very good pitcher down the line, I just don’t see him as an ace.”

What five-man rotation slot does the scout see Matusz filling in his career?

“He probably is a No. 3. And I don’t think he is a No. 3 yet, at this point.”

What separates aces from good pitchers, the scout said, is the ability to get hitters out with one pitch when everything else they have isn’t working that day.

“Aces say to hitters, ‘You know what I am going to do here. I’m going to go with my best stuff and you see what you can do with it.’ Matusz has to pitch to get guys out, and on days when he doesn’t have his best stuff, he struggles a bit.”

Like any good scout, this one leaves the door open for a misdiagnosis. He knows that most of his counterparts love Matusz, his makeup and competitive fire. So the scout said that could lead him higher up the rotation ladder as he becomes more experienced.

“Once he’s around the league a while, maybe he’ll make the necessary adjustments and he’ll be what the others say he is. But at this point, for me anyway, I don’t see it.”

Posted by Dan Connolly at 11:30 AM | | Comments (27)
        

Comments

Funny how the Orioles front office over hype there prospects! I believe this scouts idea that Matusz will be a good number four possibly number three pitcher in the rotation. He has good overall 4 pitches but not a kill pitch. The only pitcher I have seen in the Orioles system that has that kill pitch is Jake Arrieta. He just needs to learn more control, if he ever wants to develope to a front of the rotation starter.

I happen to agree with the scout at this point. Nothing I've seen has convinced me that he's going to be a star. I've always wondered why everyone loves him so much...I mean, his ERA and WHIP haven't been good in the majors.

The thing about Matusz is that he doesn't have an upper nineties fastball, but his curve, change up, and fastball all have the ability to get major league hitters out. This scout, as respected as he might be, doesn't take into account that some pitchers don't need an "out" pitch because they out think the batter and can bait him into swinging at pitches that he shouldn't.

And what "out" pitch did Greg Maddux have? Did Roy Halladay start off with one "out" pitch? How about guys like Barry Zito who have an "out" pitch, but that go through periods where major league hitters lay off their out pitch and shell their secondary pitches? The fact of the matter is that you don't need to have great stuff to be a top of the rotation starter--you just need to be able to get guys out. I could care less if Matusz registers 98 on the radar gun as long as he throws the way he did yesterday. He had the Yankees off-balance all game long with his assortment of plus pitches and his ability to control and locate them.

Scouts don't impress me because they seem to just have the lingo down. They have seen a lot more baseball players than i have, but even i can look at a guy's stats and descriptions of their stuff and give a mildly educated guess as to how they will do in the major leagues.

Scouts remind me of guys who give gamblers advice on who to bet on. They're lucky if they're right 50% of the time.

Dan, Jeff & Pete, I never post comments, but try to read your blogs daily. I wanted to thank you for your posts “scouts talk…fill in the blank.” Its great stuff; insightful, interesting, useful information when trying to derive some hope regarding the future of our team. Obviously, you can’t cover the entire team, but it would be great to see this as a regular piece – and to see what scouts think of the other “up and coming” pitching prospects. Thanks again for all your great work.

And just for whom does this "scout" scout ?
If the answer is "for the Yankees", then he didn't do a particularly good job preparing their lineup for Matusz, did he ?
Which translates to his opinion plus a dollar getting you a coffee and donut at 7-11.

What's Jamie Moyer's "out pitch"? This is the scout's standard for deciding who can be an ace? Absolutely absurd! 263 wins, 4,000 innings, nearly 2,500 stikeouts later, would you consider Jamie Moyer in his prime a #4 starter. Maybe the O's did back in the early 90's and that's why he won more than 200 of those games AFTER leaving the O's.

Simple answers never work - tell the scout to come up with more than just the simple answer of "no dominant out pitch" before you print this for your readers.

Would you say Tom Glavin had an out pitch like this scout is describing? - No. I'd say he had LOCATION and a good idea of how to pitch to hitters. No out pitch, just location, location, location and the ability to put the ball right where he wanted to.

I disagree with the diagnosis and the conclusion. Matusz' changeup is a plus/plus pitch and his other stuff is good enough. And I'm not sure to what aces he is referring that throw one pitch when they get in trouble - Pettitte, who I think is a good comp for Matusz has had to pitch his whole career, he can't just overpower people with fastballs down the middle. Worked out pretty well for him.

There's nothing wrong with a differing opinion. Just keep in mind that just about every other scout anywhere, going back to his college days, have raved about Matusz's abilities. This is one lone voice in the wilderness.

What I find interesting is that none of the scouts interviewed had anything really negative to say about Jones, Wieters, Reimold, or Markakis. If they did, we would have read about it in these pieces.

The scouts all had the same opinion, that the guys are just going through a massive learning curve and they all have the talent to get through it.

In response to Dave's above post.....Perfectly said. Thank goodness some people can still see players and the game objectively. The media hypes players, not the teams, and the media gets a large amount of info on up and coming players from ......scouting reports. If the scout interviewed would have scouted and signed Matusz I can promise you his views would be different.

Most of the Scout praise the players...

But do any of them think that there are some young players with just no potential?

...............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: I don't know about no potential, but two scouts that we spoke to weren't high on Brandon Snyder at all.

I THINK Cautiously Optimistic MAKES A LOT OF SENSE. BEN MACDONALD WAS A CAN'T MISS, JEFFREY HAMMONDS WAS A CAN'T MISS AND SOMEHOW THEY MISSED. I THINK MATUSZ WILL BE FINE. HE THROWS 4 QUALITY PITCHES WHERE FEW PITCHERS EVEN HAVE 2 QUALITY PITCHES.

Hey Dan, you start by commending the scout's credentials and relating a comment made by him that the O's have no one who projects as a #1 down the road. Then you tell us the scout won't comment on Arrieta (the best pitcher in AAA right now) or Tillman because he hasn't seen them. Riddle me this, how can you give the guy any credibility when he disqualifies himself by telling you he doesn't know anything about two of the cornerstones of the 2012 rotation? Do a little more research or write an article based on a legitimate quote next time. This blog today is substandard. Are you doing your research using the Mike Preston/Peter Schmuck standard?


---
Actually what I wrote was that the scout had only seen Tillman a few times so he didn't want to fully evaluate him. I wouldn't say that discredits him; in fact, the opposite imo. Since we were talking about the current rotation, I think we can sensibly remove Arrieta from that as well.

I've enjoyed the "scouts take" series- thanks for sharing it with the fans.

This is certainly a contrarian viewpoint, and a troubling thing to hear about our sole bright spot among the younger guys on the team. However, I'll side with "cautiously optimistic" that there is much more to being an "ace" than having one dominant pitch. In fact, I'd prefer the guy who has 3 "A" pitches and a strong "B" pitch to the one who has one clear "A+", a "B" and a "C".

I don't think Mussina overpowered anyone with his fastball either. His knuckle-curve was impressive early on but he dropped it for a conventional curve during his time with the Yankees. To one poster's comment, maybe this guy was a Yankees scout in which case I can perfectly understand why he would view a 20-win pitcher as a #3 or #4 (because their first two spots would be filled with the previous year's cy young winners).

http://mlb.mlb.com/team/player.jsp?player_id=118120

i don't know, what in this guy's first 30 starts predicted his career?

Just curious what the scout would say about Greg Maddux. He didnt particularly have any great pitches, did he? But he was able to put it exactly where he wanted and he became an ace.

--
I think that is the point. Maddux had to locate sublimely. And he did. If Matusz does, then I think the scout's evaluation would change. He hasn't seen that potential consistently yet. That's all he was saying.

It's funny now listening to people drool over Strasburg just like did at one time with Ben McDonald. I was wading through some old boxes over the weekend and found a Washington Post sports page from the early 90s and the opening paragraph in an article about the O's said that "the legend of Ben McDonald continues to grow" after he'd won his first 3 big league starts. How ridiculous that seems in hindsight.

EJR makes the case for control pitchers. Too bad O's management in 1995 (?) lost our most effecitive pitcher, Moyer, that year to free agency. No doubt O's reasoning in 1995 was similar to this anonymous scout's analysis of Matusz.

If scouts knew what they were doing, then drafts would not be a crap shoot.

If Matusz has great control, he can remind people of John Tudor - a top of the rotation pitcher.

Dan - no offense to the scout, but he obviously does not check the "charts". Must be an old timer. Matusz DEFINITELY has an out pitch, a go to pitch. Tell the scout to read a recent article on Fangraphs which details Matusz' ELITE changeup. Based on Pitch fx data, Matusz' changeup is ELITE based on swing and miss percentage, etc.

As I recall, many scouts had Musina as a #3 "at best"

Recommended reading for the Oriole fan: Romans 5:3-5

I WILL KEEP MATUSZ, IN SPITE OF WHAT THIS SCOUT SAYS.. BUT OUR STARTING PITCHING HAS BEEN FAIRLY CONSISTENT AND MANY LOSSES DUE TO OUR OFFENSE AND THE BP.. NEW MANAGER OR NOT WE AREN'T GOING TO TRADE FOR A FIELDER OR OTHER 40 HR GUY AT THIS TIME OF YEAR.. WE ALSO NEED A TRUE TOP PROSPECT SS IN THE SYSTEM. THEN HOPE GONZALES, ROBERTS, REIMOLD, AND PIE CAN GET HEALTHY..

I find it funny how many defensive, scout bashing posts there are here. Guys, the team STINKS. If you want an honest evaluation you have to go to someone not drinking the koolaid.

BTW, are you the same guys that want Davey Johnson back? You know what he's doing? Scouting for the Nationals, who have been around .500 all year, with Strasburg and Wang in the wings, and are eating the O's market share for lunch. The Nationals invested heavily in scouting and it's paying off.

Great series Dan. It would be interesting to see a scouting report on an opposing manager's in game decisions and how the other team prepares for that as well, but I'm sure that's something that no one would ever tip their hand on.

I would have asked the guy which one of Gregg Maddux's pitches was "dominating." I'm pretty sure we'd take that guy as our ace.

Just because this guy has a contrarian opinion doesn't mean the Orioled overhyped him. The majority opinion among scouts is much higher on Matusz and all I've heard from Andy/Dave is that "he's going to be a very good pitcher in this league." Which it sounds like even this guy agrees with.

Matusz reminds me alot of Scott MacGregor in the way he handles himself on the mound, and I believe he would realize some more success if he uses his changeup a bit more like Scotty did. Right now, it looks like he uses his fastball and curve ball the most, and hitters are sitting on the heater, especially up in the zone. He should be able to generate good velocity differential with the change up, and make his fast ball look quicker. Just ask Jamie Moyer if it works.

I would take me back in a second

"Pitchability"? Is that like Bud Light's "Drinkability"? I would think pitchability would be what the ball has, not the pitcher!

Anyway, scouts' opinions are useful in the aggregate, but any one scout can be dead wrong about any player. And pitchers' skills do change during their careers, sometimes in surprising ways. The O's are frankly not in a position to care whether they've got a future starter or a future #3 man. Right now they just need a future!

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.


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