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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Neyer: Over the hill but still strong on the hill

Hamburger Hill, in Colon’s case.

When the Rockies signed LaTroy Hawkins and said he’€™d be their highest-leverage reliever, we were all like, “Hey, what could go wrong? He’€™s only 41 and hasn’€™t done this job since 2004. And he’€™s got only two seasons in his whole career with more than 14 saves.”

Well, Monday night Hawkins collected his 21st save this season… How does Hawkins do it? Just like [Bartolo] Colon, with lots and lots of fastballs, although Hawkins does throw significantly harder, averaging around 93 miles an hour. And that’€™s the most interesting about him: Hawkins hasn’€™t lost anything off his fastball in a long time now. You’€™re supposed to lose something as you age. That’€™s what they always say, right? But Hawkins threw 93 in 2002 when he was 29, and he throws 93 in 2014 when he’€™s 41. He threw his slider 88 and his curveball 78 in 2004 when he was 31, and he throws his slider 88 and his curveball 78 in 2014 when he’s 41.

One more note about Hawkins ... As you might recall, he began his career as a highly regarded starting pitcher. Except that didn’€™t work out well, at all. After five seasons that included 98 starts and a 6.11 ERA, the Twins finally shifted Hawkins to relief duties, and in 15 years as a fireman—€“ he hasn’€™t started a single game in the last 15 years—€“ he’€™s posted a solid 3.25 ERA. Of course, many failed starters have enjoyed long careers as relievers. But I’€™m not sure many have done it as dramatically as LaTroy Hawkins.

The District Attorney Posted: August 26, 2014 at 02:09 PM | 18 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bartolo colon, latroy hawkins, mets, rob neyer, rockies

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   1. jdennis Posted: August 26, 2014 at 02:41 PM (#4779432)
It truly is unexpected. LaTroy Hawkins I saw as a guy who was totally washed up bust and on his way out of the league in the frickin' nineties. No way in heck my nineties self would ever say this guy would be in the big leagues in 2014. I'd have taken the bet on him being dead in 2014 before the bet on him being in the majors in 2014.
   2. AROM Posted: August 26, 2014 at 02:56 PM (#4779443)
He looked done 2 years ago with the Angels. The decent 3.64 ERA doesn't tell you awful he was if given a close game in the 7th to protect (OPS against almost 200 points higher in high leverage than low). The pitcher I saw then I wouldn't have given a 1% chance to be pitching well in high leverage at age 41, in Coors field no less.

He and Bartolo Colon are quite the contrast in body types. Just shows how impossible it is to predict who will last.

When Hawkins was coming up I remember reading about him being compared to Satchel Paige. Just a real simple and irresponsible comp based on skin color and body type, if not ability. His 1993 season in the minors (15-5, 2.06, 179-41 K-W) at least made the comp not completely impossible. His failed career as a starter marked the last time anyone ever mentioned it. But now? He's got a shot. Let's just see if he's still pitching in 18 years.
   3. AROM Posted: August 26, 2014 at 03:00 PM (#4779448)
Hawkins was on the 2006 Orioles, an old vet hanging on with a 1 year contract for a team going nowhere. They also had a young, 2nd year closer named Chris Ray. Looks like Ray has been out of the game since 2012.
   4. AROM Posted: August 26, 2014 at 03:07 PM (#4779454)
Another guy who never lost his velocity was Andy Pettitte. We only have the data back to 2002, but Andy was throwing 89 that year, curve at 74, and change at 80. In 2013 he was throwing 89, 75, and 80.

I don't think he ever threw much harder than low 90's. Considering he was a 22nd round pick, I'm pretty sure of that.
   5. PreservedFish Posted: August 26, 2014 at 03:10 PM (#4779456)
I'd have taken the bet on him being dead in 2014 before the bet on him being in the majors in 2014.


You still have a shot at a push.
   6. The District Attorney Posted: August 26, 2014 at 03:21 PM (#4779465)
I'd have taken the bet on him being dead in 2014 before the bet on him being in the majors in 2014.

You still have a shot at a push.
FBI contacted
   7. Buck Coats Posted: August 26, 2014 at 03:29 PM (#4779467)
Another guy who never lost his velocity was Andy Pettitte.


What are you implying here....
   8. Mirabelli Dictu (Chris McClinch) Posted: August 26, 2014 at 03:32 PM (#4779469)
Of course, many failed starters have enjoyed long careers as relievers. But I’??m not sure many have done it as dramatically as LaTroy Hawkins.


I feel like there was this guy who pitched for the Yankees. Might have worn number 42....
   9. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 26, 2014 at 03:35 PM (#4779471)
I feel like there was this guy who pitched for the Yankees. Might have worn number 42....


Metronomic excellence is a lot of things, but it isn't terribly dramatic. (-:

LaTroy's probably my favorite player in baseball, for a couple of reasons, so I hope he keeps it up for even longer.

   10. Jim (jimmuscomp) Posted: August 26, 2014 at 04:20 PM (#4779503)
You still have a shot at a push.


Oh hell that was funny.
   11. Posada Posse Posted: August 26, 2014 at 08:43 PM (#4779651)
One more note about Hawkins ... As you might recall, he began his career as a highly regarded starting pitcher.


Wow, I don't recall this at all, although I do remember him well as a good Twins reliever way back when....
   12. McCoy Posted: August 26, 2014 at 10:23 PM (#4779706)
ef LaTroy Hawkins.
   13. TerpNats Posted: August 26, 2014 at 10:28 PM (#4779709)
Little-remembered fact: LaTroy Hawkins was the opposing starter for Minnesota in David Wells' perfect game May 17, 1998.
   14. McCoy Posted: August 26, 2014 at 10:40 PM (#4779712)
Here is a little LaTroy factoid. LaTroy set a record by piling up 23 saves from the start of his career before finally blowing one on May 5, 2001.
   15. puck Posted: August 27, 2014 at 01:37 AM (#4779770)
I wouldn't have thought his career K rate as a reliever was 6.5/9 (17.2% of batter PA's if you prefer that). For his era, that seems pretty low.
   16. Lassus Posted: August 27, 2014 at 08:20 AM (#4779790)
Without looking, can anyone name all the teams he's played for?
   17. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: August 27, 2014 at 08:40 AM (#4779800)
No.
   18. Bitter Mouse Posted: August 27, 2014 at 08:50 AM (#4779804)
So I just looked at his b-r page. What a cool career. 20 flipping years, 17 WAR. Honestly I remember when he came up (I was a much bigger Twins fan then), and I watched his Twins career. I keep assuming he is out of the league and every few years I notice he is still plugging along.

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