An Evening with Phil Irwin

I was on hand with about 7,000 other souls last night in Indianapolis to witness Phil Irwin’s second AAA start. I’d never seen him pitch before. I’d never heard much of him before this year as he was flying pretty well under the radar (39th on the Pirates Prospects rankings coming into 2012) and fairly old for his spot in the minors.

He had a pretty good 2011. He split between high A and AA and ran up an ERA in the low threes with 13 wins against four defeats. His strikeout to walk ratio was nearly 5.0 with a K/9 of seven on the nose. After getting news of his promotion, I was excited to see him pitch (especially after seeing Chris Leroux start in my previous two Indians contests).

Count me impressed with the results. Nancy Zinni wrote up the recap. Irwin didn’t have impressive stuff on paper. His fastball was in the low 90s all night. But he worked quick, changed speeds and kept the Louisville hitters off balance. He walked the first hitter of the game (causing the Astros scout sitting in front of me to mutter to another scout, ‘You’d think he’d come out with some fire in his belly, trying to prove he belongs up here.’) and then didn’t walk anyone else. That walked batter came around to score. And that was the only run he allowed all game. The line was six innings, five hits, one run, one walk and nine whiffs. Here’s hoping he can keep it up.

For those of you into breaking down mechanics, here is a link to a short video I shot of Irwin warming up in the bullpen before the game.

On a different note, I’m not sure what to make of Tony Sanchez. I want to like him. He seems like a likable guy. He was interacting with the crowd (and he has funny interactions with fans on Twitter) as he was getting stretched before the game. He was talking to people and signing autographs. Hard to not like that. But then the game starts. He had two hits yesterday but has not been all that good with the wood at AAA. He is either really slow or doesn’t run hard down the line when he hits a routine grounder. Not sure which. He banged a double high off the wall in left center but was nearly thrown out at second base. I was watching the ball and not Sanchez. So, I don’t know if he was on cruise control or what was up with that. But someone with normal speed running all out would likely have made it into second standing up. My expectation for a catcher on a drive like that is in safely with slide but the throw isn’t close. Sanchez had to slide and even then it was very, very close. I don’t care if he runs like Ernie Lombardi so long as he also hits like Lombardi. I don’t think he is going to hit like him. He seems to have mental lapses on defense. He looks good, but then out of the blue on a ball he should handle – out of the zone outside or in the dirt – he let’s it get past him. On the positive side, on infield grounders with no one on base, he sprints up the line to back up the throw to first. The last catcher that I recall doing that routinely was Bo Diaz. The defense won’t matter so much if he doesn’t hit. So, here’s hoping he isn’t as slow as he appears and that his bat picks up.

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  • Lee Young

    Randy…I’ve seen lots of catchers do that (backing up first). Bob Walk and TIm (or Greg) had a back and forth on if Catchers should waste their energy on doing just that.

    • RandyLinville

      It is likely that either: 1. I haven’t been paying attention when I watch games live or 2. TV cameras don’t often show the angle that would reveal a catcher hustling up the line.

      I was at the Dayton Dragons game tonight and both catchers moved up the line on infield grounders with the bases empty.