I went to the Storm Chasers’ game Thursday night, and planned on having this report for you Friday morning. Unfortunately – for me, and for you – the game lasted nearly four hours, and my tired brain wasn’t able to function well enough to type out anything coherently. Better late than never, as people with punctuality problems say.
Thursday was the second time I got to see a start from John Lamb, and I was very excited to see him. When I watched him earlier in the season, his velocity still was around 89-90 MPH, but most reports from his last several starts had him closer to 91 or 92. He also had been putting up some very good numbers, so I was hopeful he could keep that going as I sat in the stands behind home.
Sadly, that didn’t really happen.
Lamb started out strong, facing the minimum through two innings. But some defensive miscues in the third started to derail him, and then his command completely fell apart in the fourth. He walked 6 batters in 4.1 innings, but he also only allowed three hits, so the damage certainly could’ve been worse.
His fastball velocity was 90-92 MPH for the first three innings, then tailed off in the fourth before falling all the way down to 87 or 88 MPH in his final inning. Part of that is probably due to having to throw far too many pitches in the third. An error from Brian Bocock and a dropped fly ball from Paulo Orlando forced Lamb to get a couple of extra outs, and did a number on his pitch count. Of course, his lack of command didn’t help much, either.
Lamb wasn’t missing by much, and when he gave up contact, only a couple of hitters made really solid contact, so it looked like he was trying to stay on the edges and out of the middle of the plate. The fastball had a little arm-side run, but not a ton of movement. He also threw a handful of changeups around 84 or 85 MPH. That pitch wasn’t terribly sharp for him, as he wasn’t locating well, and it didn’t have as much action on it as I recall from my first viewing.
The one pitch I really liked was Lamb’s slow curveball. He threw what looked like two different curves: one at 70-71 with a little bite, and another at 64-66 with more vertical movement. The slower curve fooled C.J. Cron several times, which generated an audible giggle from me. It’s not often you see a curveball that slow, but Lamb’s is really fun to see. It has enough depth that he can throw it to righties, and as long as he spots it well, it can be a useful pitch against same-side hitters as well.
Statistically, it was a very bad night from Lamb, and some of the visual evidence wasn’t great either. If there is a positive to take from this game, it’s that he can dominate when his command is on. Opposing hitters weren’t doing much on balls in play, but when a pitcher isn’t throwing strikes, hitters don’t have the chance to get themselves out.
A few other notes:
– Whit Merrifield continued his assault on Triple-A pitching, going 5-5 with a pair of doubles. He’s still playing above his tools, but Merrifield’s an easy guy to root for. He plays hard 100% of the time, and he does have some skill. I’m not sure if he’ll get a September call-up, considering they’d need to add him to the 40-man roster, but his speed and versatility could have some value. At the plate, his bat stays in the zone for a long time, so he’s a guy that likely won’t strike out too often, although he doesn’t have a ton of power, either. He’s a fun player to watch, even if he’s not much of a prospect.
– Another fun player to watch? Terrance Gore. I was really hoping Gore would get the start for the game, but that wasn’t the case. Luckily, he did enter the game as a pinch runner for Brett Hayes. Everyone in the stadium knew Gore was going to attempt a steal, but no matter, he swiped the bag anyway.
He did steal it off of John Buck, which may make it less impressive on its surface, but it was incredible to see. Gore took a fairly modest lead, and made it to 2nd base in about 2.6 seconds, according to my stopwatch. I may have been slightly off after being distracted by how quick his first step was, though. It was probably closer to 2.9, which is still stupid fast. That’s a scouting term.
The point remains: his speed is eye-popping. I would absolutely love for the Royals to add him to the roster for September to use in late-inning situations. Gore would be a terrific weapon for Ned Yost to have on the bench.
One other thing about Gore, however, is his tendency to slide incredibly late. On his steal, it looked like he didn’t start to slide until he was a foot or two from the bag, and reports from others who have seen him confirm that’s kind of his thing. That could be slightly dangerous.
– Cheslor Cuthbert was moved to first base just a couple of months ago, and that shows in his defense at the position. He wasn’t very light on his feet, and didn’t appear to use the proper footwork around the bag. That’s something he should be able to learn eventually, of course, but after the organization referred to Cuthbert as insurance for Eric Hosmer this season, I’d say the Royals would be much better off with Billy Butler manning first base.
Offensively, Cuthbert brings a solid, patient approach. He struck out looking twice on the night, but they were borderline pitches that he probably couldn’t do anything with, anyway. He doesn’t attack pitches that he doesn’t like, and that’s definitely a good thing. His swing looked somewhat less than good, though.
I’m not sure if it was just a matter of his timing being off or being fooled, but Cuthbert got overextended and popped out weakly in his other three plate appearances. As a guy who is just over 6 feet tall, Cuthbert should be able to generate more power from his strong lower half, but when his base gets too spread out, his hands tend to loop through the zone. Again, I may have caught him on a bad night (he homered Friday night), but I would like to see him tighten up his swing path in order to take another step forward in his development.