Radar gun readings don't discourage Vogelsong

Andy & Ahmed: Lincecum, Vogelsong crisp; Casilla reports

Radar gun readings don't discourage Vogelsong
February 28, 2014, 1:45 pm
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You can talk about velocity all you want but it’s location that can hurt me the most.
Ryan Vogelsong

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When Ryan Vogelsong tells you he feels more intense than normal, your ears perk up.

There’s no such thing as normal intensity for Vogelsong. He’d find a way to make nap time a competitive sport. 

But Vogelsong said yes, he felt more intense, and maybe a bit nervous, when he made his first outing of the spring on Friday. He wasn’t keyed up over the offseason uncertainty, the declined option or any of that chip-on-the-shoulder stuff.

He put a lot of work into his delivery over the winter. He was eager to apply that work, and see where it got him.

“I’ve had a lot of thoughts go through my mind this offseason,” said Vogelsong, who threw to scoreless innings against the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday. “Today it was having a good first step on the way to having a good season.”

Vogelsong’s fastball was anywhere from 86 to 89 mph, at least in the eight or 10 glimpses I got at a scout’s radar gun. That’s on the low side if we’re in the middle of May, but obviously, we're not. For a first outing, Vogelsong appeared surprised -- in a good way -- when told the gun readings.

“Oh really? That’s a really good sign, I guess,” Vogelsong said. “Radar guns are radar guns. It feels good coming out of my hand so that’s the most important thing.

"If that’s all I have all season and I locate like that, I’ll take it.”

Vogelsong’s velocity is a concern because of how it’s trended over the last three years. His average fastball went from 91.6 mph in 2011 to 90.7 in 2012 to 89.2 last year. The hardest pitch he threw in 2012 was 94.8 mph. Last year, the most he ever dialed it up was 92.3.

In other words, Vogelsong’s single hardest fastball last season wasn’t too far above his average fastball in 2011.

Vogelsong knows that reduced velocity is going to be taken as confirmation bias by scouts, media and fans who will find it all too easy to write him off after last season. He knows there are doubters; ESPN reporter Tim Kurkjian, who spent a day in camp last week, reported that he was told Vogelsong’s stuff “looked flat.”

In fairness, though, it isn’t about how the stuff looks. It’s about how it plays. Friday was the first time Vogelsong could get a true read on that. He had trouble getting his curve to break late, hanging all three he threw and giving up a triple. But he liked the way his cutter acted and felt he kept his pitches down in the zone.

“I worked really hard on my delivery this offseason, and I’m hoping that will make my location a lot more consistent with location than last year,” Vogelsong said. “You can talk about velocity all you want but it’s location that can hurt me the most.”