Mike MacDougal took the mound last night to slam the door on what turned out to be the Washington Nationals third shutout of the season.
When MacDougal is on, he will come to the mound and electrify you. He throws straight gas, the cheese, the dead heat. He has one pitch and he utilizes it well. His fastball races to the plate at speeds from 94-98 MPH with movement.
That movement is important. For every Inch a fastball moves baseball experts say the batter perceives and extra five miles per hour to the pitch because of the adjustment time necessary.
Why do you think Mariano Rivera has been so unhittable throughout his career ladies and gentleman?
Yet, clearly, anyone who looks at a Mike MacDougal baseball card can see his career has not gone the way of a Mariano Rivera…or even a B.J Ryan for that matter. This is because while MacDougal has incredible stuff he is marred by incredible inconsistency. His one pitch is great, when its on.
What’s so fascinating about MacDougal however is that unlike most streaky pitchers, it isn’t a matter of the closer being on one night and off the next. For MacDougal when he is on he is one of the more dominant bullpen pitchers in baseball, when he’s not, he’s a borderline AAA reliever.
Right now he is one what I at first glance thought must have been the best streak of his career. In the month of August he has an MLB leading six saves, and has looked unhittable. But after looking back into his career, this isn’t even close to his best streak.
- 2009: August 2nd-present, 6 IP, 5K/4BB, 6 Saves, 0 blown saves.
- 2005: June 29th-July 22, 11 IP, 9K/4BB, 7 Saves, 0 blown saves.
- 2003: May 31st-April 20, 9 IP, 8K/6BB, 7 Saves, 0 blown saves.
- 2003: June 18th-July 13, 11 IP, 8K/5BB, 10 Saves, 0 blown saves.
As you can see one thing remains constant, his walk rate. It seems MacDougal doesn’t get into that much trouble unless his fastball straightens out, or the batter gets a good read on it. It’s like the old adage says, if it comes in hard it leaves hard.
These streaks are the reason MacDougal has stuck around so long as a potential closer in the majors. They’ve made him the kind of guy every team will take a last chance on, as the Nationals did this year. They are also however, the reason he has never been able to keep a closer job.