Thursday, July 22, 2010

Joe Savery

Unlike most Phillies fans, I (and many Tulanians) had actually heard of and seen Philadelphia’s 2007 top draft pick. Joe Savery was a star at Rice, he was the dominant left-hander (and a super hitter) of his collegiate time in C-USA.

Unfortunately, he has struggled in the Phillies’ organization this year- demoted back to the bullpen:
With a 1-8 record and 5.21 ERA at triple-A Lehigh Valley, Savery was recently removed from the starting rotation and sent to the IronPigs' bullpen. Chuck LaMar, the Phillies' assistant general manager in charge of player development, said the organization hopes that Savery can regain some confidence and return to the rotation before the end of the season.

"I'm fine with it," Savery said before a Lehigh Valley game earlier this week. "I understand I haven't pitched very well. Maybe I put too much pressure on myself, so maybe going to the bullpen is a chance to stop and kind of start over."

The relief experiment started for the Phillies' 2007 first-round pick Thursday night and it went well. His pitching line, however, looked more like that of a starter than a reliever. In seven innings against Syracuse, Savery allowed just five hits and one run with seven strikeouts and no walks.

That would have qualified as his best start of the season if it had not come in relief of Alex Concepcion, a reliever who pitched just two innings in his first start of the year. Despite the length of his outing, Savery told the Allentown Morning Call that something was different about pitching in relief.

"Coming out of the 'pen, I felt like we went to everything right away and weren't trying to establish the fastball," Savery said. "We came out firing from the get-go with everything. Maybe that's just how I need to pitch."
I really can’t say I knew much about the draft board, and normally I think drafting college pitchers is a good bet, but I wasn’t the greatest fan of this selection at the time. In fact, Joe’s move to the bullpen was largely inevitable.

He had the great change-up at Rice. But the “good for college” 92-mph fastball isn’t super (for the nineteenth overall pick) for pro-ball.... And there are no other plus secondary pitches. Hard to get through a pro line-up as a two-pitch pitcher if you can’t get the velocity separation of a Cole Hamels.

Joe walked guys in college (4 BB/9 his last year).
You can see from his minor league stats his walks are up even from college (4.5BB/9 in AAA), which is unfortunate in and of itself, and symptomatic of pitching to avoid the bat. Guys in AAA can get his change of speeds and simply put the ball in play a lot more than in college. Strikeouts are down by half and via extrapolation, I bet “balls hit real hard” is doubled. Consequently, his WHIP is atrocious. Plus, he is 25 now, the curveball or another 2-3 mph on the fastball just aren’t coming.

But asking Joe to get three outs with a decent fastball and good change seems more do-able. Guys only getting one look at a guy are more vulnerable to the change of speed approach- and his lack of further major league quality secondary pitches won’t matter at all. Even mediocre left-handers are hard to find.

Clearly the Phillies did not intend to get a decent, serviceable LHP with this pick three years ago- but I think Savery is closer to the big leagues now then when he was winning games at AA Reading as a starter.

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