Bobbing and Weavering
On the same day in which brother Jeff Weaver of the Los Angeles Dodgers gave up eight hits and four earned runs over five innings in a Grapefruit League game against the Florida Marlins, Jered Weaver pitched seven shutout innings to lead the 10th-ranked Long Beach State 49ers (14-5) to a 4-0 victory over the 17th-ranked University of Arizona Wildcats (11-8-1). (Box Score)
The younger Weaver allowed only three hits, one walk, and one hit batter as he improved his record to 7-0 on Thursday night at Blair Field in Long Beach. Jered's ERA (0.71) is now one-tenth of his brother's ERA this spring (7.07).
IP H R ER BB K Weaver 7 3 0 0 1 3
IP H R ER BB K ERA W-L Weaver 50.2 20 4 4 6 73 0.71 7-0
What was missing this time around were the strikeouts. Weaver only fanned three Wildcats, the fewest Ks he's had in his last 20 starts. The big righthander had been working on a streak of five outings of 10 or more whiffs, including back-to-back games of 15 strikeouts heading into his start vs. Arizona.
Going into the game, I was concerned as to whether Weaver's career-high 120 pitches the previous Friday vs. UCLA combined with starting on one day less rest than normal would negatively affect his performance against the Wildcats. As it turned out, Weaver definitely did not have his best stuff. He hit 92 and 93 on the speed guns on occasion but was not his usual overpowering self.
Although the All-American had an impressive strikes-to-balls ratio of 2.1:1 over his 114 pitch count total, he threw nearly as many first pitch balls as strikes. Working behind in the count more often than he had in any previous start this year, Weaver seemed to be throwing in the high-80s as much as in the low-90s. He also went with his fastball about 80% of the time, mixing in an assortment of varying off-speed breaking balls and change-ups as needed.
On one hand, Weaver was not nearly as dominant as he had been in the other four appearances that I have witnessed this year. On the other hand, it was notable that the 21-year-old did so well with as little as he had that night.
More than anything, Weaver knows how to pitch. His stuff is good but not great for a big leaguer. The scouts like his size (6'7", 205), outstanding command, ability to change speeds, and mound presence. I think Weaver projects as a 6 or 7 K/9 type pitcher, not an 8 or 9 guy despite his collegiate record.
Let's take a look at some potentially comparable major league pitchers based on their 2003 seasons.
RIGHT HANDED PITCHERS
K/9 IP BB/9 IP 1 Roy Halladay 6.90 1.08 2 Livan Hernandez 6.87 2.20 3 Kevin Millwood 6.85 2.76 4 John Lackey 6.66 2.91 5 Miguel Batista 6.61 2.79 6 Bartolo Colon 6.43 2.49 7 Ben Sheets 6.40 1.75 8 Brad Penny 6.33 2.57 9 Matt Morris 6.27 2.04 10 Woody Williams 6.24 2.24 11 Tim Hudson 6.08 2.29
Source: Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia
Roy Halladay, Miguel Batista, and Tim Hudson are extreme groundball type pitchers, which Weaver is clearly not. Even Livan Hernandez and Matt Morris have higher GB/FB ratios than Weaver. That narrows the field down to Kevin Millwood, John Lackey, Bartolo Colon, Ben Sheets, Brad Penny, and Woody Williams.
Although there is a difference in their height, I think Sheets (6'1", 200) may be Weaver's most comparable major leaguer. Both were excellent college pitchers and have a similar array of pitches (low-to-mid-90s fastball, curveball, and change-up). Sheets was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers as the tenth pick in the first round of the 1999 draft.
Given their similar builds, looks, and styles, one cannot dismiss the possibility that Jered may also be comparable to his older brother Jeff, who was an outstanding college pitcher in his own right at Fresno State. What's unknown is whether Jered would be more like the 2000-2002 version of Jeff or the 2003 model that resulted in a disastrous season with the New York Yankees and a subsequent trade to his hometown Dodgers.
And that, my friends, brothers, and Padres, is the multi-million dollar question.
Photo Credit: Matt Brown