CINCINNATI — It is like somebody walking into a casino and having the pit boss hand them 20 $500 chips and saying, “Here, have fun on us.”
It is found money.
That is what the Cincinnati Reds should feel like when it comes to pitcher Dan Straily. They were handed free money when the San Diego Padres put him on waivers three days before the start of this season and the Reds signed him.
The cost for Straily? The major league minimum of $512,100. In baseball, it is the equivalent of finding a pitcher in the bargain bin at Goodwill.
SINCE THE ALL-STAR BREAK, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound right hander from Redsland, Calif., is 6-and-0 with a 1.90 earned run average over eight starts and the Reds have won all eight. And he has given up two or fewer runs in all eight.
When he pitched six scoreless innings against the Texas Rangers Wednesday night for his 10th win, he matched his career best, 10 victories in his rookie year (2013) with Oakland. And the A’s didn’t think a whole lot of him when they drafted him. They picked him on the 24th round, usually a round teams use just to fill out their minor league rosters.
Nobody, though, is more appreciative of what Straily has done than manager Bryan Price, a guy who knows pitching like the Wright Brothers knew aeronautics.
“It really was an unbelievable find for us,” said Price. “He has been a difference-maker and a solidifier to our rotation. He has been our most consistent starter.”
SO WHAT MAKES STRAILY so effective and efficient when his fastball tops out at about 92 miles and hour and his slider makes it way plateward at 82? Price says Straily has the deception of a Las Vegas magician.
“”I really believe it is deception and I really don’t think that hitters see him as well as they see other pitchers,” said Price. “His velocity is not overwhelming — 88 to 82. But there are a lot of swings and misses on his fastball. A lot.
“The part that sticks out to me is that at one time he was either a four-seam pitcher and then he was a two-seam pitcher and now he can utilize both,” Price added. “He has opened up his full arsenal to both left handed and right handed hitters. He is not going fastball/change-up to lefties and fastball/slider to righties. He has opened up the whole bag of tricks to both lefties and righties.
“I don’t think hitters see any of those three pitches terribly well,” said Price. “My feeling is that it is difficult for hitters to see his release point and it is difficult for them to recognize the spin of his pitches. And for a guy who throws 90, his slider comes in at 82 and there is a lot of speed differential. But you get a lot of guys swinging at the slider like it is a fastball. There just is not a lot of recognition. And he has a change-up that has a bottoming, downward action which is also a good swing-and-a-miss pitch. All that is something that is not taught.”
WHEN BILLY HAMILTON made the stupendous catch on Carlos Beltran Wednesday night, Statcast measured that he ran 123 feet from right center to left center, reaching 22 miles an hour before he flattened out to make the catch while sliding belly-down on the warning track.
The catch was all over ESPN and MLB-TV Wednesday night and all day Thursday, but Hamilton said he hadn’t seen it and said with a smile, “I just catch ‘em, I don’t watch ‘em.”
Statcast also reported that on balls hit with a trajectory of lower than 30 degrees, Hamilton covered more ground than any center fielder they had ever measured. He covered 10 more feet than the second best.
PRICE APPRECIATES HAMILTON’S daily catch, almost as much as the pitchers, but he appreciates more what Hamilton is accomplishing offensively since the All-Star break.
“He has made his biggest strides offensively,” said Price. “He was hitting about .260 (actually, .256) at Triple-A when he got called up (2013) and had to figure it out.
“This is a challenging level and this is his year after we got past that first four or six weeks and he started to figure some things out, like putting the ball on the barrel more often, driving the ball through the infield and, to me, a much better strike zone command. It has led to a higher on-base percentage and more opportunities to steal bases and score runs, which is what Billy is all about.”
Some of the players in the Reds clubhouse were aghast when they heard what Texas manager Jeff Bannister said about Hamilton’s catch. “Oh, we’ve had some guys make catches like that,” he told writers.