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New Arms: Tip of the Iceberg

The first few months of MLB action have yielded a bounty of new pitchers to check out. By "check out" I mean explore via PITCHf/x. The flood comes from two sources: your standard run of the mill rookies playing in the show and (non-)prospects pitching in preseason baseball. Exhibition ball in big league parks in early April is a standard source, but the PITCHf/x installations in Peoria, AZ and Surprise, AZ are the new goldmine.

You may recall the influx of prospect PITCHf/x reports from this past autumn out of the Arizona Fall League when two teams called Surprise home and one Peoria. The Cactus League featured a pair of clubs in both locations, so the pace picked-up in the new year.

The tip of the new arm ice berg includes four interesting pitchers, selected with input from other Beyond the Box Score writers and editors. The rest of them will be selected with your input. Hopefully I'll get to them all (over 80 so far).

Cast your vote(s) for the next round. Today we'll look at Kanekoa Texeira, Bobby Cassevah, John Ely and Hisanori Takahashi.

The book on Texeira is "sinker/slider", but it isn't that simple. I find two distinct breaking balls, an off-speed pitch and two fastballs. As Jeff Sullivan recently noted, Texeira also throws a cutter -- which would explain the other fastball. I'm calling his supposed slider a curveball, as their is fifth pitch that pops up in between the sinker/cutter/change and the sweeping curve. That tweener, I think, is a slider and not the cutter. Sometimes I want to call his change-up a splitter due to the movement, but, watching him pitch for the Mariners a few times I'm comfortable with my current labels and, more importantly, groupings.

Sinker    91
Cutter    91
Change-up 85
Slider    81
Curveball 79

Cassevah is another sinker/slider by reputation, and it's a better fit for the Angel reliever. Cassevah mixes in some four-seam fastballs along with a splitter. Along with Texeira, it all comes from a low arm slot. His pitch types are more clear because (a) he says he throws a splitter; and (b) his second fastball is more distinct that Texeira's.

Fastball  90
Sinker    90
Splitter  84
Slider    84

Ely, originally a product of the White Sox system, throws over the top with a four-seam fastball, a curveball and a cutter/slutter/slider (I've settled on cutter, for now). He'll throw a few two-seamers, or so it seems, and his change-up could easily be a bad splitter. It doesn't tail, nor does it tumble too much. He seems to be settling into the Dodger rotation, hopefully the front office in Los Angeles doesn't send him back down. Again.

Fastball  88
Sinker    88
Cutter    85
Change-up 79
Curveball 71

Takahashi, now in the Mets rotation, is 35 years old, so the "new" is a loosely applied here (I'm older than he is, so I can say that). Thanks to being in the bullpen, and some crazy extra inning action, he's now pitched in every inning from 1 through 14 except the 12th. But anyway .... he's fastball, change-up, slider and curve.

Fastball  89
Slider    80
Change-up 80
Curveball 69

Summing Up

None of these guys are hard throwers. Cassevah and Texeira are both ground ball pitchers (47%, avg is ~ 44%), Cassevah misses a few more bats but Texeira has a much better B:CS ratio. Actually, Texeira's just average (2.2) while Cassevah has just been poor (2.8).

Takahashi and Ely throw more strikes, fewer ground balls and have better control than the two sinker-balling relievers.

While they may have had some good luck on batted balls (only the reverse applies to Cassevah), Ely and Takahashi have been the best of this little group. Texeira looks like he may be due for some regression as more grounders fail to find leather before they find the outfield. Cassevah needs more time, just 134 pitches in PITCHf/x.

Note: Flight path charts coming later