Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Balester Having Ankiel-like Control Issues

On Tuesday night, Collin Balester plunked a batter in the head for the 2nd time in 2 weeks.  Talk about a horrifying day for a pitcher who is just trying to earn a bullpen spot.

In the Brewers series, Balester hit 2B Rickie Weeks in the head, but Weeks was able to stay in the game.  On Tuesday, Balester had another pitch come up and in on a right handed batter.  This time, it was D-Backs slugger 3B Mark Reynolds.  And it was a 95 mph fastball.  Reynolds ended up on the ground, but tests came back negative besides a big bump on his head.

While it's not quite as bad as former Cardinals pitcher Rick Ankiel's pitching breakdown in 2000, it's just as dangerous.  In 2000, Ankiel started Game 1 of the NLDS for the Cards and broke down in the 3rd inning.  He became virtually unable to throw strikes from that point on, for the rest of his career.  In that inning, he earned 5 wild pitches and was pulled.  In Game 2 of the NLCS, Ankiel threw 20 pitches in the 1st inning and was pulled.  One-quarter of those pitches sailed to the backstop.  Ankiel never figured out his problems, and became an outfielder for the Cardinals, then the Royals, and now the Braves, and a pretty successful one at that.

While Balester isn't as wild as Ankiel, he's become incredibly inpredictable.  It's dangerous for every batter he faces.  When a pitcher knows there's a problem (in Bally's case his elbow stays below the ball for too long and the arm never catches up, creating a high release point), and is unable to fix it and it's resulted in 2 batters being hit in the head by his pitches, well, it's an unacceptable problem. 

I like Balester's heart and he has potentially great stuff, but he can't locate it.  I hope that Balester can fix the problem soon, mostly because I love his ginger mustache, but also because you can never have enough organizational pitching depth.  But until he does figure it out, Bally cannot face any more live batters.

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