The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

 

Five Cool Things about Pat Neshek

Last Friday night, I finally got a chance to watch Twins reliever Pat Neshek. By way of belatedly introducing this week's Hit List, in which Neshek appears, I just had to share a few of my favorite things about this guy.

1. First and foremost, he's a rookie big-league pitcher who has his own blog; he's been doing it since spring of 2004, when he was pitching in High-A ball. It's not a scandal sheet where juicy tidbits of inside gossip are dished out, but it's not a slick, filtered production either. Mainly it's just cool to see a player make an honest attempt to connect with fans and share his wide-eyed take on being a rookie in the bigs (scroll down about 1/4 of the way here to see his illustrated take on signing a contract with Topps, for example).

2. Neshek throws with a very funky motion that includes a herky-jerky stutter at the beginning that must drive hitters bat-shit crazy. He drops down to begin his delivery from a submarine position, but brings the ball up so that he's basically throwing slightly above sidearm. He describes how he developed his delivery here (with photos):
My best guess is the following hypothesis. In my last High School game I was drilled in the forearm by current Phillies farmhand CJ Woodrow. Up to this point I was a normal over the top thrower. In fact the first time I was drafted it was by the Twins in 1999 and I was throwing directly over the top, I'm sure they still have video of it. That next day after getting hit in the arm I had trouble gripping a baseball. About two weeks into summer baseball I still could not throw a baseball unless it was from three fourths / sidearm angle. I tried to pitch but my mechanics wanted me to go over the top but it hurt too much to do that. I continued to play shortstop all summer turning double plays and throwing the ball from down under. I eventually finished the summer season and took off the rest of the time until I started college, which was about a month and a half. During that time my forearm healed and when I got to Butler I felt fine throwing the ball. One problem though, I had a whole new arm slot and it wasn't anything I thought it could be. During my freshman year at Butler I was watching a tape of me throwing and this was one of the first times I had seen myself throw on TV since high school. A lot changed in my mechanics from high school to college and I never noticed nor felt like I was throwing any different. After viewing the tape I was shocked and tried for a few months to change my mechanics. Near the end of the season I watched myself again after trying to improve the delivery but it still looked the same. Butler Head Coach Steve Farley tried for the rest of the year to work on making me "Look Normal." During my Sophomore season on an average day near the end of Fall Ball, Coach Farley came up to me and said "Do your own thing" "That's your own unique style and it works" and something to the extent of "I give up with you." From that point on I stopped feeling bad about having the worst mechanics in college baseball and used my style as strength. So now if you ever see me pitch you'll know how I pitch like that!
Neshek describes his repertoire in a March 2005 interview with Seth Speaks:
I guess if I were to describe myself I would say that I'm a guy looking to come at you, compete, throw in the zone and not let up looking to strike the batter out. Yeah it's a different arm angle from most guys. I throw a four seam/two seem fastball, slider, change up from a little above sidearm and a sinker that I throw submarine. My fastball is usually my out pitch but if my slider is on I go with that.
Aaron Gleeman links to a short clip of Neshek's delivery that shows the arm angle but not the stuff that precedes it, which appears to be every bit as important.

3. Neshek's funky delivery has been done up in Lego, courtesy of Bat-Girl. What, you were expecting Joe Sheehan?

4. He has a cool-looking autograph and is in fact a collector of both autographs and cards. Like any reliever, he's got a lot of time on his hands, and he must have spent a fair amount practicing his signature. He actually trades signed cards with fans and runs his own auctions on eBay. In a couple of his recent entries (September 5 and 11, 2006, can't seem to find the way to permalink), he describes a trip to the MLB Players Association office, where he was given some boxes of baseball cards. He opens a couple of the boxes and describes the various sets, then runs stats for how much of a set he's completed and how many doubles he had. Endearingly nerdy.

5. In his September 15 entry, Neshek is believed to have made big-league history by photo-blogging the Twins' rookie initiation ritual, for which he was dressed up in a magenta and black skirt, witches hat, fishnet stockings and silver platform shoes. He described the experience as "Not Fun!" but the photos speak otherwise, showing him and the other unidentified Twins rooks -- one dressed as Elvis, one looking like the cop from the Village People, one that might be the Tin Man, another in a Tarzan outfit, Matt Garza in a yellow bikini, Boof Bonser (I think) in a modified girls' school uniform -- are mostly smiles. Hilarious stuff, and the reason Neshek made it into this week's Hit List.

Not that Neshek hasn't done good work this year. Recalled just before the All-Star break, he was charged with just three runs in his first 25.2 innings. But September has been a cruel month; he's yielded six in 7.1 frames, and he took the loss in the game I caught on Friday. Overall, he's got a 2.45 ERA in 33 innings, and an awesome 48/6 K/BB ratio, and he's held righties to a .158/.179/.250 performance in 76 at-bats (lefties hit .233/.292/.512 off of him in 43 at-bats). He's fourth on the Twins in Reliever Expected Wins Added, with 1.034, and that's helped them to lead the AL in that category. Since the Twins appear likely to play into October, he should get plenty of TV time over the next few weeks. Catch him while you can.

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