One of the exciting aspects of the roster shakeup lately is the introduction of two new pitchers to the MLB bullpen that we’ve seen very little of (unless of course you live in Harrisburg, PA and stop by the Senators games all the time). So lets take first look at newly promoted 22-yr old LHP Ian Krol.
A quick introduction: Krol was the PTBNL in the Michael Morse trade, coming over from the Oakland organization after a relatively tumultuous minor league tenure (he missed the entirety of the 2011 season after an elbow injury and then being suspended for an offensive tweet; ah a sign of the times). After returning to the fold in 2012 he was relatively awful as a California league starter (not really that surprising; look what happened to A.J. Cole when he went there), then was bumped up to finish the season as a AA reliever with poor numbers in a short sample size in the Texas league. Even for an organization like Oakland, apparently that was enough; they made him available in trade and he turned into the PTBNL.
He arrived in Washington and has immediately been significantly more effective as a reliver here: his AA numbers have been eye opening; 26IP, 14 hits allowed, only 2 earned runs for an ERA of 0.69, and a K/BB ratio of 29/7. I thought these numbers would earn him a promotion mid-season; I didn’t think we’d be seeing him in the MLB bullpen in June.
Lets look at his performance in the 6/5/13 debacle loss to the Mets. He pitched the 6th inning and faced the top of the order. He gave up a fluke single when Daniel Murphy flailed his bat at an outside fastball and dinked the ball into LF, but otherwise he struck out the side, punching out the 3-4 hitters for New York with relative ease. He threw 23 pitches, 19 of them fastballs. Per his Pitch F/X data, his fastball averaged 95.28 and peaked at 96.88 on the night, quite a heavy ball from the left-hand side. He has a relatively deceptive release point which makes that fastball look even faster. A lot of the swings he got were very, very late. With this kind of fastball and short-term effectiveness, he can easily serve as the “Loogy” that many pundits have been saying this bullpen needs. He has clean mechanics, did not lose velocity pitching from the stretch, and didn’t seem like he was throwing with max effort.
Now, on the downside, the 4 pitches Krol threw that were not his fastball left something to be desired. He attempted three curveballs and all three of them seemed almost to slip out of his hand and flayed way to the left-hand side of the plate. In fact he nearly hit Lucas Duda with one attempt. He also attempted one changeup that he managed to bounce about 5 feet from home plate for a wild pitch (I’m sure that’s going to end up on the weekly “wildest pitches” video on one national baseball blog). So we now see some evidence of why he has been moved to the bullpen; no decent or trustworthy secondary pitches.
On the bright side, a 95mph left-handed fastball with deception is going to be darn hard to hit even if the hitters know its coming. In this respect, he’ll make a good short-stint reliever even if he can’t trust his secondary stuff. On the downside, the scouting reports are going to get out and eventually hitters will know to sit on a FB. Even if a ball comes in at 100, MLB hitters can hit it. So Krol is going to have to show he can throw a curve or change with effectiveness and control to stick.
That being said, it was pretty exciting to see a youngster like Krol punch out three pretty good hitters. The one bright note on a crummy night for the Nats.