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  • Alex Meyer: Missing High

    I've had time to process a bit on Minnesota Twins prospect Alex Meyer after having seen two of his not-so-good starts. And I've come to a conclusion: when Meyer misses it's because his pitches are high. Those misses are driving up the pitch count, gradually slowing down his fastball, causing him to tire and not go as deep into games as is necessary for the ace pitcher we expect him to become.

    I attended one of his recent starts, a losing effort last week against the Binghamton Mets. Meyer started off dominant, but had a rough 4th inning that ended up costing him the game. Instead of focusing on that inning, however, I want to focus on the third inning. It started off innocently enough, with a 4-pitch strikeout and a 1-pitch ground out. Just like that, 5 pitches and 2 outs. But then this:

    Check out the pitch locations. Meyer started missing high with 2 outs. As this shot shows, all but 1 pitch was belt-high or higher. Meyer issued this 2-out walk -- a cardinal sin in any organization, especially the Twins. But Meyer wasn't done. How about the next batter?

    As you can see, a 5-pitch walk with all the pitches high. Basically the same thing, except this batter only swung at a meaty 2-0 pitch. 12 unnecessary pitches and 2 unnecessary walks, before a 2-pitch groundout to end the inning. There is no doubt that several extra pitches in that frame caused mental and physical fatigue that were costly in the fourth inning.

    Meyer issued 3 walks on the night. Here's the screenshot of his final walk. Again, high misses.

    The point of this post isn't to suggest that Meyer needs to alter his mechanics or anything like that. I have absolutely no specialized knowledge to that effect. He's 6 feet, 9 inches tall, and his fastball reached 96 on both starts I've attended; I'm 5 feet, 9 inches tall, and may have hit 76 on a hot summer day in White Bear Lake in 1999. Meyer has a knuckle-curve that falls off the table and embarrasses hitters who are expecting the fastball. He has all the makings of a phenomenal pitcher, but something is missing this spring.

    The point of this post is to suggest that, in the 14 or so innings I have seen Meyer pitch, when he misses, it's consistently high -- and it's very high. High to the point that batters aren't likely to offer. I could do screen shots from the other start I attended, and I'm confident they would be the same. In fact, I heard Terry Ryan mumble something to this effect when Meyer was laboring in a protracted inning last month. In other words, I wouldn't be writing this if it's not something that I had consistently noticed.

    What is the solution? Having watched Meyer, I have no doubt that this is mostly a mental issue. He'll get 2 outs, then walk a couple batters with high pitches. Or, alternatively, he'll have 2 great innings, then start walking batters in the 3rd inning. Something temporarily changes. It really strikes me as a composure issue more than anything else. On more than one occasion I've seen Meyer have difficulty with the batter who follows a guy who reaches on a fielding error or a weak infield single. It's a common problem, and it makes sense to me. It would annoy me to no end to be unable to rely on my fielders. But that's a part of the game Meyer is going to have to learn; he won't be able to strike out everyone, and not every fielder will be Gold Glove caliber.

    Some baseball lifers say that the jump from High-A to AA is the most significant. Meyer might be finding that this spring. Like I've said all along, I am certain he will become the pitcher that we all hope he will be. But it's also important to realize that he's a young kid working out physical -- and mental -- issues along the way. So if you're looking for something to watch for, I would recommend keeping an eye on the walks and composure issues. Is Meyer struggling after 2 outs for no reason? Does he start to miss very high with that fastball? Those are the signs that he's not ready, yet, for the show. But on the whole, those are fixable issues. You can teach a guy to work through a composure issue, but you can't teach a guy to toss 96.
    This article was originally published in blog: Alex Meyer: Missing High started by Twins Fan From Afar
    Comments 6 Comments
    1. Han Joelo's Avatar
      Han Joelo -
      Love the first hand observations coupled with the graphics. Thanks for reporting.

      Last night I was reading a resurrected thread here detailing various George Costanza GM's expected haul in a Denard Span trade last summer. Expectations were rather high, and, I think, justifiably so. Span was a great trade chip. Regardless of his stats thus far, I still think the highest praise one can give to Meyer is that he was traded straight up for a starting big league CFer. I hope he hasn't mentally internalized that and put more pressure on himself, but it would be understandable if he had.

      I was listening to the John Feinstein interview of Stan Kasten on the radio yesterday, and he retold the story of how the Braves acquired Smoltz for Doyle Alexander. He said they had definitely targeted him for a long time, and it was a long process before the Tigers caved and gave him up. I see the lengthy Twins/Nats Spandance as a similar story. I hope.
    1. Twins Fan From Afar's Avatar
      Twins Fan From Afar -
      Good points, and Meyer's view of his importance to the Twins' future very well could be causing additional stress.
    1. rukavina's Avatar
      rukavina -
      Having "watched" a bunch of games via MiLB Gameday, it is not at all clear to me that the fx data is accurate. Can anyone vouch for the accuracy of the pitch location?
    1. Oxtung's Avatar
      Oxtung -
      There is no pitch f/x system in the minor leagues according to Jack Goins the Twins statistics guru.
    1. Twins Fan From Afar's Avatar
      Twins Fan From Afar -
      Quote Originally Posted by rukavina View Post
      Having "watched" a bunch of games via MiLB Gameday, it is not at all clear to me that the fx data is accurate. Can anyone vouch for the accuracy of the pitch location?
      Yes. I was there, and the screen shots of these at-bats align with the notes I took during the game.

      But your larger point is valid.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I've kind of wondered how it is that guy who's consistently throwing 60% of his pitches for strikes is walking that many guys. Seems odd. I'm wondering if this is a sudden thing where he loses control, or if he's getting less disciplined hitters to wiff at the high stuff.
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