There was an interesting piece on FanGraphs a couple days ago about Vic Black — titled “Vic Black, Closer In Waiting?” You can already guess what the subject matter dealt with and it was certainly a good read. They jump-started it with a curious quote from LaTroy Hawkins, who spoke about Black:
“Some guys have late life on the ball,” the 40-year-old Mets reliever Hawkins said. “Sometimes I play catch with him and he has, like, double life. The ball comes out of his hand and it picks up speed halfway and hits up another gear. It’s weird. It’s something I’ve never seen. That’s why I said he has a magical arm. I told him he has a magical arm.”
An odd description, no doubt, but definitely something you don’t mind hearing about your new arm for the pen. Black is an interesting case for closer — as author Mike Petriello notes, his fastball averages a blazing 95.6 MPH and although he throws his curve sparingly, eight of his early 14 strikeouts have come on that pitch.
Black’s doubters are less concerned with his stuff, however, as it’s hard to get down on a young pitcher with two respectable pitches working a one-inning job. They are, however, worried about his walk rate and his violent delivery. In fact, it was the first thing I noticed when he made his first pitch for us — his delivery puts a lot of pressure on his arm and could definitely lead to potential injury.
Weirder things have happened in baseball, however, and Black certainly has the potential to compete for the closing job. He needs to refine his curve a little and throw it for strikes more, in contrast to mainly working it in the dirt, and MLB hitters will have to respect the possibility of a back-door curve in that case. I was in favor of giving Jeurys Familia the opportunity to close pre-injury and I really hope he comes back as strong as he was before.
In the meantime though, Bobby Parnell will suffice just fine.