UPDATE: This morning (3/14/2013) Anthony Slama was reassigned to Minor League camp.
Much has been made of the success enjoyed by Minnesota Twins Minor Leaguer Anthony Slama over the past several years at Triple-A Rochester. Since 2009, when he first arrived in Rochester, Slama has posted a 2.27 ERA over 154.1 innings and has 191 strike outs to go along with just 74 walks. Those 191 strike outs came in 635 plate appearances, meaning that Anothny Slama was striking out more than 30% of the batters he faced. Pretty impressive numbers for a guy that has only two brief Major League auditions, 4.2 innings in 2010 and 2.1 innings in 2011. Despite everything that Slama did in 2012 (1.24 ERA with 56K and just 18BB) and as bad as the Twins were (66-96), Slama was passed over for a September call-up. Slama is entering his 7th year in professional baseball, he’s no longer on the Twins’ 40-man roster, and despite being in Big League camp, he has little chance of making the Twins’ 25-man roster to begin the year.
But he still had a chance entering his March 9 appearance against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. Slama was making his first road appearance of the Spring and even though he’d walked four batters and struk out only two through his first 3.1 innings (including an exhibition appearance against the Puerto Rican WBC team), he’d given up just a single earned run, and that was back in his first appearance of the Spring. Slama pitched poorly, facing six hitters, giving up two hits, two walks, and two runs while recording just two outs.
Anthony Slama throws three pitches. He throws a 4-seam fastball, a curve ball, and a change-up. A pretty regular assortment for a right-handed pitcher. Slama throws his 4-seamer almost three-quarters of the time, with most other offerings coming out of his hand as curve balls and an even smaller number of change-ups. Slama has fringy velocity, sitting in the upper-80s with his fast ball, and throwing both his change and curve about ten miles per hours slower.
Why Slama has not been given a real chance with the Twins despite his Minor League success is anyone’s guess, but the general consensus is that the Twins do not think his game will translate well to the Big Leagues. Specifically, according to 1500 ESPN’s Phil Mackey, that “Slama puts too many runners on base, and his low-90’s fastball lacks the necessary life for late-inning success in the majors.” With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at Slama’s March 9 appearance.*
Batter 1 – Matt Hague (RHB) – Slama retired Hague on four pitches. He started him with three fastballs (all between 87 and 89 mph), and then induced a pop-up in foul territory along the first base line on a 74 mph curve ball.
Batter 2– Lucay May (RHB) – Slama started off May with the same fastball to the top-right hand corner of the strike zone, but this time failed to get the call from the umpire and fell behind 1-0. May was taking all the way on Slama’s second offering, another fastball right down the pipe. Slama then missed the zone with his next two fastballs, bouncing the second one in the dirt. Now behind 3-1, Slama had to throw a strike and May connect on the belt-high fastball and lined a single between the shortstop and third basemen. Slama did a good job mixing locations with his fastball, but all five fastballs came in at 87 mph. Because he was unable to find the edges of the strike zone.
Batter 3 – Jordy Mercer (RHB) – Once again Anothny Slama begins the at-bat with a fastball. Mercer takes the pitch right down the center of the strike zone for a called strike one. Slama then throws back-to-back curve balls that miss down and outside and he’s behind in the count 2-1. Back to the fastball, again Slama misses outside and he’s in his second three-ball count of the inning. Slama misses way outside on his next pitch, which he appeared to overthrow, and now there are runners on first and second with just one out.
Batter 4 – Drew Maggi (RHB) – The game-tying run is now at the plate and Slama again goes to his fastball for an 88 mph called strike that catches the bottom of the zone. Slama drops a curve low and away that misses but comes back with another fastball right down the plate that Maggie fowls down the left field line, out of play. Looking at the video, Maggi might have been looking for another off-speed pitch, but he still put a good swing on the ball and lining it down the left field line, despite being well behind the pitch. Ahead in the count, Slama throws what appears to be a change up and induces another pop-up to foul territory along the first base line. This was Anthony Slama at his best, mixing speeds and hitting his spots on the edges of the zone.
Batter 5 – Felix Pie (LHB) – Slama quickly falls behind 3-0, missing the zone on three straight fastballs between 87 and 89 mph. Pie takes the next two pitches, both strikes, before Slama misses throws wide with his sixth fastball of the at-bat, loading the bases. This was Slama at his worst. He struggles to throw strikes with his fastball and because he had been so erratic with his control, the regularly impatient Pie lets Slama give him the free pass.
At no point through these first five batters has Slama looked particularly confident. He’s managed to get a couple of pop-ups to into foul territory, but he routinely misses the catcher’s target, sometimes by what looks like a foot or more. He has thrown 24 pitches to this point in the inning and has yet to induce a single swing and miss.
Batter 6 – Brad Hawpe (LHB) – First pitch fastball (stop me if you’ve heard this before), high and outside, 1-0. Hawpe then fouls off (up and away from the third base line) two more Anthony Slama fastballs before watching a fourth fastball (and the 10th consecutive fastball that Slama has thrown) get away from Slama for a letter-high ball. Slama throws yet another 88 mph fastball that Hawpe again just misses sending the ball into the seats along the third base line. Slama’s thirtieth pitch of the inning is another fastball that misses high bringing the count full. Anthony Slama now has a three-ball count with the fourth of the six batters he faced. The final pitch of the at-bat is a fastball hit through the gap on the right side of the infield that scores two runs.
Anthony Slama’s appearance ended after that second base hit. He threw thirty-one pitches: 14 strikes, 17 balls, 26 fastballs, 4 curve balls, and what was most likely 1 change up. He finished with thirteen consecutive fastballs, everyone of them between 86 and 89 miles per hour. His fastball looked flat AND he could not locate it. Because he was frequently behind in the count he was unable to get to his curve ball, and when he did, he could not throw that for strikes either. All in all, a pretty dreadful appearance from Anthony Slama.
Unless things change drastically between now and the end of Spring Training, that performance was likely the unofficial end to Anthony Slama’s career with the Minnesota Twins.
*In addition to being Slama’s most recent appearance, the March 9 game was Slama’s first televised appearance so I had an opportunity to review the videotape, approximate pitch locations, and record velocity by way of the on-screen radar gun. Went a little old school to get the pitch data, here is my chart, NotebookFX