Baseball BeatMay 23, 2004
15-and-Oh So Close!
By Rich Lederer

After a two-week hiatus, Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT returns to bring you the latest on Jered Weaver. I was fortunate to be among the sell-out crowd of 3,036 fans at Blair Field in Long Beach Friday night in my usual seating area behind home plate surrounded by major league scouts to witness Weaver's latest dazzling performance.

The junior right-hander was one strike away from throwing a complete-game shutout and winning his 15th game without a loss this season when arch-rival Cal State Fullerton rallied with a back-to-back double on an 0-2 pitch and a run-scoring single to tie the game in the top of the ninth. Weaver was removed from the contest at that point, having thrown 120 pitches and Long Beach State went on to lose 2-1 in 10 innings. (Box Score)

Weaver vs. CSUF:

             IP   H   R   ER   BB    K
Weaver      8.2   8   1    1    0   11

Kevin Towers, the General Manager of the San Diego Padres, was in attendance to keep tabs on his prized prospect. Weaver, as has been predicted here for months, is likely to be chosen by the Padres with the #1 pick in next month's amateur draft.

In fact, if Weaver signs a contract with the Padres in June, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he ends up pitching in the big leagues this year. If he pulls a Mark Prior and signs later in the summer, then it wouldn't be feasible for him to pitch for the Padres until early 2005.

Health permitting, only Jake Peavy (with a league-leading 2.01 ERA) is a lock to remain in San Diego's rotation all year. Ismael Valdez (4.47 ERA with only 15 Ks in 44 1/3 IP) is the most likely pitcher to be replaced by an early Weaver signing. However, Adam Eaton (5.23 ERA with 10 HR in 53 1/3 IP) and Brian Lawrence (4.56 ERA and a 1.70 WHIP despite his six wins) have been spotty as well.

Weaver would give the Padres another starting pitcher for the stretch run. He has an unusual delivery and could be effective in his first go round the league. It might be perceived as a risky move but one that I wouldn't put past the Padres, who have a reasonable shot at the post-season for the first time since 1998.

I have been impressed not only with Weaver's power and command but also his makeup. He has the guile, guts, and determination that makes him a special talent. When Jered has his best stuff, he simply dominates Division I hitters. When he isn't on top of his game, he still finds a way to beat the opponent with a mound presence rare for any pitcher--much less a 21-year-old.

Weaver can reach back and rise to the occasion when needed. On Friday night, the youngster who wears the number 36 on his back stranded four Titans at third base, getting out of minor jams with a popup in the first inning, a soft lineout in the second, two strikeouts in the sixth, and three punchouts to end the eighth.

The hard-throwing Weaver has a knack for challenging left-handed hitters inside in a manner that reminds me of a young Frank Tanana, a lefty who could bust a fastball on the hands of right-handed batters as well as anyone I've ever seen during his heyday in the 1970s. And to think that Weaver is doing so against hitters with aluminum bats says a lot about his confidence.

Weaver's year-to-date stats are simply phenomenal. A strikeout-to-walk ratio of 13:1 is unheard of at any level of competition. Opponents are batting a lowly .151 against him with a .195 on-base percentage and a .218 slugging average.

Season Totals:

            IP    H    R   ER   BB     K    ERA    W-L
Weaver     122   63   20   17   14   182   1.25   14-0

The All-American has struck out 10 or more batters in 12 of his 16 starts; K'd at least 14 on seven occasions, including a school record 17 one game and 16 in only six innings against Wichita State; and whiffed the first 10 in a game twice (USC, BYU). Weaver has also hurled two complete-game shutouts; retired 21 and 18 consecutive batters; and strung together 23 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings at one point during the season.

The pride of Simi Valley High School has been named Collegiate Baseballs National Player of the Week a record six times (2/9, 2/16, 3/8, 3/15, 3/29, 5/10) and is a strong candidate for three Player of the Year honors (Baseball America, The Dick Howser Award, and the Golden Spikes Award) plus The Roger Clemens Award, given to the top collegiate pitcher.

Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT and Jered Weaver have been joined at the hip this year. Although Weaver is synonymous with Weekend Baseball, there still isn't a team this year that can say they BEAT perhaps the best pitcher in the history of college baseball.

Important Note: Jered Weaver's next outing may be shown live on College Sports Television. CSTV has moved the Dirtbags nationally televised game at Miami to Thursday, May 27 at 7:00 p.m. EST. It was originally scheduled for Friday, which is normally Weaver's night but it is likely that Jered's start will be moved up to Thursday to kick-off the three-game series with the University of Miami Hurricanes.

NCAA Playoffs: The sites for the NCAA Regionals will be announced on Sunday, May 30. The field of 64 for the NCAA Tournament will be revealed on Monday, May 31 with Regional play beginning on June 4. The Super Regionals will commence on June 11 with the College World Series opening on June 18.

Photo Credit: Matt Brown

Comments

Hey Rich, is LB St. coach Mike Weathers getting any heat for his penchant of keeping Jered in games too long? I know Kevin Towers wouldn't mind seeing the Dirtbags bullpen being used more often on Friday nights!

If those season totals are accurate and Weaver has in fact thrown 122 innings already, I find it exceedingly unlikely he'd be pitching for the Padres (should they draft him) this year.

In fact, I can't imagine they'd have him throw many more innings in the minors either, depending on how far his team goes in the playoffs.

Hey Rich-

I read an article on Baseball American that was comparing the guy from Old Dominion, Justin Verlander, with Weaver. The link is here:

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/2004draft/040324verlander.html

The article says that Weaver has #3 starter ceiling in the majors whereas Verlander has the potential to be a dominant #1 starter in the majors.

You like to compare Weaver to Prior a lot, and I was wondering 2 things:

1.Are you only comparing Prior to Weaver in college ball, b/c a #3 starter Prior is not?

2.What do you think of Baseball America saying that Weaver is really only going to be a #3 starter?

Thanks!

-Baseball Savant

Somehow, Weaver had to share the conference pitcher of the year award.

http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-colrdp26may26,1,6762860.story?coll=la-headlines-sports

Another 120+ pitch count for Weaver on Friday (127 in only 6 1/3)....at this rate, not only am I pessimistic that he'll be pitching for the Padres at the end of 2004, but he'll have a dead arm and could have a rough start to 2005.

I agree with you, Joe. Weaver has thrown a lot of pitches over the past year, including 133 innings last spring (sophomore), 48 innings last summer (Team USA), and 128 innings thus far this year (junior) plus he will start at least once more in the Regionals next week.

If Weaver pitched as many innings this year as he did last year, he would have 53 to go. Assuming he pitches another 8 in college, he could conceivably have enough in his tank to throw about 45 or so in the professional ranks.

Based on a late June or early July signing, I could see Weaver making a couple of 4 or 5 innings starts at Double-A in mid-to-late July and, if all goes well, perhaps a half dozen 6-IP type outings in the majors in August and September. But that would be the max in my mind.

I also wouldn't be at all surprised if he decides to shut it down for the rest of this year a la Mark Prior with the idea of going to the big league camp next spring and then on to a short stint in the minors in April and May before being brought up in late May or early June. This approach would obviously be the safest way to go.

Baseball Savant: The "Polish or Stuff" argument is appropro here to some extent. Weaver's ceiling may be limited by having "good" rather than "great" stuff.

Weaver has outstanding command and control but only good stuff. Prior, on the other hand, has great command, control, and stuff, as well as great mechanics.

I've written in the past that their college stats have been pretty comparable. Up until Weaver's last outing, he had actually had superior numbers than Prior. Now they are pretty similar in so many respects (W-L, ERA, K/BB, K/IP, H/IP, etc.). Given the various adjustments, I would be inclined to call it a tie.

With respect to Weaver's upside, I compared him to Ben Sheets before the year began and received a couple of comments from readers who were surprised that I thought so little of him as to view him in the same context as Sheets. I can't help but wonder what those same readers are thinking now that Sheets has struck out 18 batters in a game and become one of the very best pitchers in all of baseball.

Well kids... he ain't perfect:

Erick San Pedro hit the first of four Miami home runs to hand Long Beach State ace Jered Weaver his first loss and lead the Hurricanes to an 8-5 win over the 49ers on Thursday night.
Weaver (14-1) entered the game leading the nation in wins, ERA (1.25) and strikeouts per nine innings (13.4), but he was roughed up by the Hurricanes for seven runs on eight hits in 6 1-3 innings. He did strike out 11 batters.

Wondering if this makes you guys doubt the level of competition Weaver's faced.

"Well kids... he ain't perfect"

Weaver may have had a "perfect" record but no one that I know of ever said he was "perfect". Mark Prior, who had previously been annointed the best college pitcher ever, even lost one game his junior season. 14-1 is nothing to be ashamed about, especially when the loss is against one of the most elite baseball programs in the country.

"Wondering if this makes you guys doubt the level of competition Weaver's faced."

No, not at all. Long Beach State had one of the top 20 toughest schedules in the country. Weaver faced Cal, USC, Baylor, Arizona, Wichita State, UCLA, UC Irvine, and Cal State Fullerton--teams that were all ranked in the top 25 at the time of his outing.

Weaver also was the ace on the Team USA last summer that won the silver medal. He is a two-time All-American and one of the most decorated pitchers in college baseball history. I think he has earned his accolades, pitching in pressure-packed situations and in front of scores of major league scouts during the past three years.

Rich,

Thanks for answering my questions! It's greatly appreicated!

I'm with you on the Ben Sheets comparison, and I can conceive what people are thinking if a comparison to Sheet is thinking negatively about a pitcher!

thanks again,
baseball savant