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Rob "R.J." Swindle's Debut

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Doug Melvin burglarized the other 29 major league teams by signing Rob "R.J." Swindle to a minimum major league deal this off-season, and he made his season debut with the Brewers last night after an impressive week in AAA. He walked his first batter, former teammate Chase Utley, but then settled down and pitched 1 1/3 effective innings.

Jeff looked at Swindle's minor league numbers last week, but now we have some data from his outing to look at. 21 of Swindle's 31 pitches were strikes. He induced two swinging strikes, on the strikeouts to Howard and Coste, the first on an 81 mph fastball and the second on a 73 mph change-up. Swindle's top fastball was 82.7.

Then there is the pitch that Gameday calls "Unknown". It is Swindle's fabled curveball. I expected that the 55 mph figure we heard for the pitch was an exaggeration, especially after Bill Schroeder talked about it being in the mid-60s on last night's broadcast. Though they were not picked up by the radar gun for FSN, these three slow curves were thrown at 53.5, 54, and 54.5 mph. One was a called strike, one fouled, and one called a ball.  Each crossed the plate at about 50 mph.

Swindle seems to have broken Gameday's pitch identification algorithm, but I can pick out what most of these pitches are. The ones I think are fastballs move much like two-seam fastballs would, breaking in towards lefty batters and away from righties, though not necessarily down-- they move on a pretty flat plane, which is to be expected from a side-armer like Swindle. They averaged about 81 mph.

The curveballs have some ridiculous movement; they are breaking 10-12 inches away from lefties and rising about 3 inches. Most breaking balls move far less horizontally and vertically (pitches usually "rise" by the pitch fx measurements). 

I am pretty confident in saying he was throwing a 2-seam style fastball, a change, the slow curve, and one other pitch-- probably a moderately breaking slider or cutter, which is a tough pitch to identify-- even Randy Johnson's slider has about 0 inches of horizontal break (remember that it is more of a unit for measurement than a measure of the distance the pitch broke, a looping pitch that starts and ends at a point on a line would have 0 inches of break). It should be an effective pitch when mixed with the opposite-breaking fastball. 

In any case, after the initial walk and wild pitch, Swindle settled down and pitched well. Most of his pitches are also on the same horizontal plane, so a hitter has to decide if the pitch is coming towards him or moving away from him without the clue of it breaking up or down as well-- and that is without considering the potential embarassment of being fooled by the curve. His stuff looks like it will give lefties a very tough time and he might be effective in mop-up situations against righites as well. If the decision next weekend is between dropping Julio or Swindle from the 25-man, I would keep Swindle. Having nasty stuff does not necesarilly mean that the pitcher throws hard.