Jeremy SowersIndians’ Lefty Looks To Make Triumphant Return To Team In 2008

Saw this on Buster Olney’s ESPN.com blog this morning, and thought I’d pass it along.

Basically, Sowers talks about having to deal with disappointment and frustration for the first time in his young career. I respect the approach he’s taking to his demotion last year and his struggles both in the majors and in the minors.

Sowers has always seemed like a smart and even-keeled individual, and I’m pulling for him to make a full recovery both because it would be great for the team and because I’ve always pulled for him. But followers of baseball metrics will tell you that it may be an uphill battle for Sowers. Their biggest issue with Sowers is, quite frankly, the fact that his pitches don’t miss hitters’ bats. He’s not a dynamic sinker ball pitcher like Carmona or Westbrook, either. Sowers has a career 1.26 G/F ratio, compared to Carmona’s 3.00 or Westbrook’s 2.68. A pitcher who has low strike out numbers, doesn’t throw hard, and induces a lot of fly balls is normally not a recipe for success. But that being said, 2 of his top 3 comparables according to Baseball Prospectus are Tom Glavine and Mark Buehrle. Not the worst comparables to have. I think as long as Jeremy maintains his command, he can have a long career as a solid, above-average even, number 4 starter on a good team.

Anyway, for those of you who aren’t ESPN Insiders, here’s the text from Buster’s email with Sowers:

Jeremy Sowers went into the 2007 season projected to be in the middle of the Cleveland rotation, but he struggled early. Wrote Sowers an e-mail and asked him to diagnose how his season played out, and this is his response:

“For the most part, the life as a baseball player has been successful. Although I definitely got my stuff knocked around a time or two, failures were few and far between. Even when I began to play professional ball, my stops at A, AA, and AAA all led to great numbers. In fact, they improved as I climbed the ladder. “When I first received a call-up in 2006, my initial performances were not very good. However, my team was in three of the four games, and only once did I leave the game before the sixth inning. When my fifth and sixth starts turned into complete-game shutouts, I was able to utilize the confidence until the end of the season. “When I arrived to 2007 spring training, I was told I would be the No. 4 starter. Even though I earned the spot with successful pitching, the path to becoming a member of the rotation was fast and not extremely difficult (1 1/2 yrs of pro ball is a quick rise to the majors — obviously). “The season started out well, but after four or five weeks I had nothing to show for it. Every time I pitched well I seemed to get a no-decision. Being an idiot (in retrospect), I put too much weight on statistics. So when I began to hit a rough patch, my numbers became even worse. From there, I let everything compound. My mentality became more ‘please don’t get a hit,’ rather than ‘you’re not going to hit this.’ “At times I came very close to breaking out of my slump, but never quite got over the hump. It was like riding a roller coaster. I would have a couple good innings, then give up a 3-spot. I also felt like opponents were hitting about .800 with RISP and two outs. All season my pitching coach was telling me to ‘stick with it, things will change.’ Because I never failed for an extended period of time before, I did not take his words to heart. “I was demoted in the middle of June, which was expected. I was not mad by any means. I was still frustrated about the season, but I decided to make the most of the situation. Unfortunately, my failures continued. I think I was 0-4 after a month. The same formula stayed true. I would get very close to pitching a successful game, then give up four or five runs in an inning (mostly with two outs). “Then I had a start against Syracuse. Nothing special happened that day, nor did something profound ignite my confidence prior to the game. Somehow, someway (probably luck) I managed to strike out the side in the first inning. My pitches were perfect, and the hitters looked overmatched. Eight innings later, I finished a CG.

“After that game, I realized one thing to be true: ‘Confidence breeds more confidence.’ The only way to end a slump is to get a couple hits, or win a game or two. Personally I never believed in the ‘think confident’ approach, mostly because I never had to pitch without it.

“From that game on I pitched very well in Buffalo. I still had a couple rough starts, but I always bounced back. Eventually I got promoted back to Cleveland for a spot start against Seattle. Although the first inning was rough, the next four were great. I finally believed I was back to being myself. Unfortunately that was the last game I pitched during the season, so I never got an opportunity to build on the Seattle game. Still, I was happy to end the season at my peak.

“Another thing that helped me along the way was rationalization. If baseball was going bad for me, the other 99 percent was great. I was healthy, had a great family, and soon to be married (which I now am). I also realized I’m only 24, and already spent 180 days in the majors. What the hell was I complaining about?

“Every now and then I believe I need some humble pie. It’s simply too easy to complain, and it has a snowball effect. You have to play this game care-free and loose, not worrying about what’s wrong. The 2007 season was my most painful, but I am a much better person for it.”

“This offseason, I plan to simply work harder. Then be ready to battle in spring training for a spot in the rotation.””

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