Pinch Hit: When did Jeff Weaver learn how to pitch?

When did Jeff Weaver learn to pitch?

Here’s another pinch hit article. This article was re-edited earlier this week and does not reflect Weaver’s game 5 gem, although it alludes to his success. Prophetic indeed. This article originally appeared over at the Chi-Sox Blog. ~~

When did Jeff Weaver learn to pitch? Can someone fill me in, please? Is it the moustache or maybe the muller? Either the Cards secretly inserted Jeff’s brother, Jered, into the lineup or perhaps Jeff finally tapped into that potential that everyone kept raving about.

I think, ultimately, it comes down to his pitch selection and his plan of attack, but to be blunt it could just be dumb luck. Let’s take a closer look at his performances this post-season. In his first start of the playoffs, Weaver lived on a steady diet of curveballs. He threw curveball after curveball to the Padres and ended up pitching 5 scoreless innings, while only surrendering 2 hits. He wasn’t a train wreck like everyone thought he would be. He gave a very solid outing; the only point you could nitpick is that he only lasted 5 innings. Coming into the NLCS, the question everyone had on their minds was which Weaver would show up? The maestro from the Padres game or the same guy that’s bounced around the majors and was cut in favor of his younger brother. That seriously had to be painful. Older brothers NEVER like to lose to their younger brothers, let along lose their job to them. Cardinals’ fans were relived when the maestro showed up. Well, he was there for the most part. He proved to be the maestro for all but one pitch; a Carlos Beltran two-run shot, which served as the difference in the ball game. Before that homer, Weaver absolutely dominated the high-powered Mets’ offense. Even though he got the L, I think this outing was even better than his showing against the Pads. First off, this was against the Mets, one of the better offenses around; he had to get by the likes of Reyes, Beltran, Delgado, and Wright. Second, he pitched for longer, going 5 2/3. He had a different game plan this time around, which contributed to his success. Unlike his first start, when he lived on curveballs, he featured a good fastball. He was regularly around 94-95 mph, and occasionally reared back and touched 96-97. Beltran’s first AB is a perfect example of his attacking style for the game.

Weaver challenged him with inside fastballs, which is a big step for Jeff; in years past I think he would have tried to nibble the outside corner against a good hitter such as Beltran. Something else that I noticed is that Weaver was using different arm angles. I don’t know if this is something that he’s always done, or something that I’ve noticed only now after watching Jose Contreras, but Weaver continually threw from different arm angles; sometimes he would throw more over the top, and sometimes he would slot his arm down to more of a ¾ delivery. If this is something new, the arm angles may be part of his new found success. On the night, he went 5 2/3 and gave up only 4 hits. Not half bad, to say the least. Weaver looked good, once again, in Game 5. He pitched like the Weaver we have come to know throughout the playoffs. He wasn’t utterly dominant, but he put up a good performance and put the Cards in a position to win the game.

You can’t argue with 6 innings of work and only 2 runs against the high powered Mets. Weaver had his worst outing of the playoffs in the World Series, but he still pitched well. The loss really should be attributed to the Cardinals’ offense. If you were to look merely at his stat line (9 H, 3 ER in 5 innings), Weaver’s performance doesn’t look like anything special, but he really had a solid game. He struggled in the first inning, when he gave up two runs. The first run was definitely his fault as he left a fat pitch for Monroe to belt out of the park. The second run was batted in by a Carlos Guillen double that arguably would have been caught by a decent outfielder. Preston Wilson, who was playing left, appeared to misread the ball and ran too far to his right; I’m pretty confident that So Taguchi would have made the catch had he been in the game. Weaver didn’t have the pinpoint control that he had in his first outing against the Mets, but he battled through all the hits he let up. He was partially able to counter-act the high hit total by inducing 2 double plays. Like I said, it wasn’t his best start, but he still gave a good effort, and most teams would be happy with a performance like that.

Game-by-game, it looks like Weaver has tapped into his potential and become a good pitcher. Even his 2.91 post-season ERA would support this, but I’m not fully committed to the Jeff Weaver bandwagon. Granted it is a small sample size, but some of his other stats aren’t nearly as flattering. His BB/9 is 3.31 which isn’t terrible, but not all that great either. Generally, pitchers should be below 3.00. He also seems to be lacking when it comes to H/9. Throughout the post season he’s giving up 8.72 hits per nine, which has contributed to his less than stellar 1.34 WHIP. Weaver has pitched much better than he did in the regular season, and part of me wants to say it’s just a late season push to earn himself a fat contract, but watching him pitch makes me question that logic. I guess I’ll wait to pass judgment on him until next season.

~~ Jeeves is one four writers at the chisoxblog.blogspot.com of a site that specalizes in Chicago White Sox news and notes. But don’t let that fool you, they also touch upon many relevant topics in the world of proffesional sports. So give the site a gander, and don’t forget to add their RSS feed!

Jeff Weaver

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  • I’ve always felt that the problem with Weaver has been confidence and playing in big markets. He’ll be an interesting case to study in 2007, as I have to assume that he’ll gain a ton of confidence from his outing in game 5.

  • CardsBaby!

    Weaver was magnificent last night but I still do’nt know if I want him back next year or not. Maybe in a smaller market like St. Louis he’ll be able to thrive.

  • Early

    The Mets and Tigers should be ashamed of themselves for not beating the snot out of Weaver.

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