Send Kyle Drabek Down!

The young pitching phenom can not throw strikes anymore.  He needs to be sent down to the minor leagues and this is why:

Last night was the proverbial crossroads in Kyle Drabek’s development as a pitcher.  In his own words, it was the worst game of his life.  Drabek left after 2/3 of an inning and 38 pitches.  He opened the game by allowing back-to-back doubles before walking 3 straight Cleveland Indians hitters.  Therein lies the problem.

When asked what went wrong, Drabek responded, “I’m just not hitting my spots right now.”

Right now? No.  He hasn’t been hitting his spots all season.  In fact he leads the Majors in bases-on-balls with 45.

Drabek – who’s thrown 63-1/3 innings – has a strike rate of 54.8%. Meaning that Drabek is on pace to post the lowest strike rate of any regular starter over at least the past 12 years.

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Why can’t Drabek throw strikes?  It could be a number of reasons.  Drabek himself has spoken of his struggles to repeat his delivery on a consistent basis.  However, in AA New Hampshire last season, Drabek walked 68 hitters in 162.0 IP for a walk rate of 3.8/9IP.  This season? He’s walked 45 in 63.1 IP for a walk rate of 6.4/9IP – almost double that of last year.  To me, it’s more than just mechanical – it’s mental.

Once again, Farrell said the 23-year-old right-hander’s biggest enemy is himself — “controlling his emotions and continuing to trust his stuff.”

“I believe in my stuff,” Drabek said. “I just can’t hit my spots right now.” 

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Frankly, I don’t believe him.

All one has to do is look at Drabek’s body language.  He is an emotional mess on the mound.  The thing with Kyle is that he has such outstanding stuff but he will do anything in his power to make sure he doesn’t get beat by the long ball.  As a young pitcher, there’s nothing worse than having an opposing player take you yard.  Look at his reaction after Adrian Gonzalez tags him for a home run:

Or how about this one by Mark Texieria?

So, to avoid getting beat, Drabek nibbles on the corners.  The problem with that strategy is that Drabek’s pitches have so much movement to them that they sail every which way out of the strike zone, resulting in balls.  These balls turn into walks and those walks snowball into a mess of lost confidence.  The lost confidence turns into frustration and anger and then the sky falls on Drabek’s head.  A vicious cycle, if you will.

This is far from the first time a pitcher has gone through what Kyle is currently experiencing.  One player who went through the same struggle was Dustin McGowan.  He went from 8.2BB/9IP in 2006 to 3.2/9IP in 2007.  How?  By actually trusting his stuff.

“In the past, I had a tendency not to trust my stuff [or] trust myself. Now, I’m starting to trust a little more. When you trust your stuff, you can go right after guys. It’s all about having a positive mind-set.”

One of the players that McGowan went “right after” … was Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, who leads the Majors with 19 home runs. After McGowan commited a fielding error that allowed New York designated hitter Hideki Matsui to reach first base with one out in the sixth, the pitcher settled down and used five pitches to strike out Rodriguez. McGowan then forced Jorge Posada to ground into a fielder’s choice that ended the threat.

“He’s one of the best hitters in the game,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, referring to Rodriguez. “All that showed is what [McGowan] is capable of doing. He’s got overpowering stuff. Now, it’s just a matter of it all coming together and believing in himself. The sky’s the limit.”

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The sky is the limit for Drabek too.  Unfortunately,  the cure for Drabek takes time.  It’s called maturity.  And he’s most likely to find it pitching for AAA Las Vegas than he is in Toronto as he gets eaten alive start after start.  I few days ago I tweeted my own personal prescription for Drabek:

Of course, I was roasted by the Twitteratti, but I stand by it.  As the late Bobby Mattick used to say,  how can one have success without confidence?  How can you have confidence without success? (source)  Right now Drabek’s confidence is probably the lowest it has been in his entire baseball-playing career.

John Lott reported that the Jays are not likely to send Drabek down like they did with Cecil and Snider:

Earlier this season, when promising young Jays hits bumps in the road, the club dispatched them to Las Vegas to work out their woes. Drabek is not about to follow Brett Cecil and Travis Snider, Farrell said.

“We fully believe in him. He’s going to have some growing pains. We’re fully aware of that and fully accepting of it. He is a guy that we’re committed to.”

However, should Drabek continue to struggle, I don’t think it will be long before Drabek is on a flight to Vegas baby, Vegas!  Last week on the Jeff Blair Show, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos stated the organization’s philosophy when it comes to developing players in the minors:

We can force Kyle Drabek to work on his changeup in New Hampshire, even if he gave up a home run every time we can tell him it’s okay. We need you to work on it and make it a better pitch. We want them to work on the process so that we when they get up here they can worry about the results.

The environment at AAA Vegas is much more forgiving because the team success at that level is not nearly as important as it is in the Show. Eventually Drabek will reach that same breaking point that Dustin McGowan did and by struggling through the adversity he will find the maturity that will allow him to reach his full potential.  Current Diamondbacks pitcher Joe Saunders said it best:

“You have to say, ‘I hope this guy throws a strike and I’m going to kill it,’ or, ‘This guy’s going to hit it to me and I’m going to turn a sick double play,’ or, ‘I’m going to throw this ball right where I want to for strike three.’ If you don’t think like that, you won’t go far.”
— Joe Saunders

He needs to approach hitters with the mentality of “this is my best pitch.  If you hit it out, I’ll tip my cap to you.  But I’m going to go after the next guy and I’m going to get him.”

When asked how he’ll seek to remedy what is currently ailing him between starts, Drabek said, “Still working on the same things.”  It’s time to work on some different things.  Kyle desperately needs to work on the process of throwing strikes and his mental approach to the game.  Only then will the confidence, success & results come.

All images courtesy of REUTERS
Written By

has written for Mopupduty.com since 2006. Follow Callum on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram (@callumhughson)

  • CliffyZ

    I think you are spot on. I have watched most most of Drabek’s starts. He always nibbles and he has bad body language on the mount once he gets into trouble. Only the 1st start of the season against the twins, he was able to fool them to swing at balls outside of the zone. Once he starts to face the more patient hitters, he struggles. Like you said though, it’s part of the maturing process.

  • NorthYorkJays

    Sending Drabek down for 30-35 days buys the team another year of control too.

  • Chill

    Agree. I’d give hime one more start abd then send him to LV or even NH to work things out. What he’s doing is not working.

  • Renegade

    Dont think that sending him to a ridiculous bandbox in Vegas really helps him that much.

    Also whats up with his curveball? I thought it was his best pitch yet he doesnt throw it at all.

    • I think that the bandbox factor is inconsequential. He doesn’t need a complete overhaul, he just needs to take the pitches he has and put them in the strike zone.

      Good question with his curveball. I think what has happened is that he doesn’t get ahead in counts enough to use it as an effective pitch.

  • dc

    wow great fuckin plan, send him down the the minors where he can just blow by fastballs to all the insignificant hitters..

    honestly you’re such an over reacting fuck, this is why toronto fans fuckin suck. they think because someone is a prospect they are supposed to just show up and be fucking awesome

    it takes time, he needs to learn to control himself and he needs to be up here with walton who is our best pitching coach.. stop being such a fuckin douche bag, thinking you’re so smart. you have to let players develope upwards, and if they struggle you need to hope they get thru it.. not struggle and then sent down to destroy their confidence.. and ps get a new pic you ugly fuck

    • Superior insight DC…

    • Tight_PP

      Sending pitchers down to get their shit together is always a bad idea…Roy Halladay.

  • NoScoutHere

    My concern is that Drabek and his catcher JP are blaming the wind for his last start while Indians pitcher had no problems.

    If Drabek can’t adjust to wind then good hitters will eat him alive when they know he can’t adjust to them.

    Drabek has a future but he needs a reality check and a ticket to see Elvis in Vegas. While he is there, introduce him to the strike zone – a new bar in vegas.

  • Elmer Fudd

    Isn’t DC something else? Magnificent post! So typical of wannabee and failed jocks who equate excessive machissmo with excessive foul language.

    DC, for someone who seems to possess at least a first clue about baseball, you really do come across as a moron.