Today in the National Post, John Lott interviewed new Buffalo Bison coach Gary Allenson. If you didn’t know, Allenson was previously the coach of the Blue Jays’ AA squad, the New Hampshire Fishercats. And what better way to get an idea of some young arms than from the guy that had seen them play almost all season, right?
When Marcus Stroman came back from his 50-game suspension, it was as if he didn’t miss a beat. Lott asked Allenson for a scouting report on Stroman as well as Sean Nolin and A.J. Jimenez. Allenson happily obliged. To not take away from Lott’s article, I’ll only be posting parts of it that stand out to me.
While discussing Stroman, Allenson referenced Stroman’s fourth start. Allenson saw a previously unseen pitch by Stroman and decided to ask the young prospect what pitches were causing batters to be off balanced at the plate. Stroman would respond “changeup.” It’s an interesting tidbit because Stroman had been relatively effective in 2 of his 3 outings prior to the match-up with the Akron Rubberducks (Cleveland) without his changeup. The one outing prior to Akron was against the Portland Sea Dogs and Stroman only lasted one inning, getting roughed up for 7 ER and 2 HRs. I point this out for a few reasons. 1.) Being effective while showing less types of pitches in your arsenal (as he was in first two starts) shows confidence and even dominance of a level. There could be many reasons to why Stroman stayed away from his changeup in his first three starts, but Allenson is unaware of why. To me, if the coach doesn’t know, then that’s a conscious decision made between pitcher and catcher. I’m basing this off of my own experience. 2.) It shows maturity on Stroman’s part. Now who’s to say the pitching coach didn’t speak up or that Jimenez and Stroman may have talked about it after the rough outing? I’m not there, so I don’t know. From an outsider’s point of view however, it appears like maturity and growth. For a young pitcher to make adjustments between starts is a part of the learning process and it’s good to see Stroman feeling comfortable in that department of his game.
The other thing that stood out during Lotts interview with Allenson is what appears to be a lack of knowledge in regards to Sean Nolin. Allenson had the peripheral information down. You could get a scouting report from anywhere these days. This quote from Allenson however stands out: “He’s a guy that’s probably a perfectionist. He needs to be a little bit easier on himself when things aren’t going well.”
First off, there are a 142 games scheduled in a AA season. Not to mention Spring Training and some time after the season ends. Nolin was around Allenson from April until about mid-August (and if you want to be picky, you can minus one week in May when Nolin came to Toronto for that brutal spot start.) How do you not know if somebody is “probably a perfectionist?” Maybe “probably” was a slip of the tongue or nerves? I analyze it however, because it comes off sounding like a coach that doesn’t know all of his players. When you include his comments at the end of Lott’s article on how he feels it’s more important to develop prospects than win ball games, knowing your players is part of that process and this quote comes off even worse.
I’m not trying to bash the new coach and if it comes off that way, that was not my intention. I was impressed with what he had to say about Stroman and equally unimpressed about the information given on Nolin. Yes, the short quip of not being predictable and getting comfortable throwing changeups while behind in fastball counts was insightful, but it just seemed like he was less knowledgeable on the lefty that the Blue Jays expect to compete for a rotation spot this spring. I can understand how a new coach may not be aware of a player’s changeup when he’s barely seen that player throw. But how can you say “probably a perfectionist,” not be sure, and then follow it up with “He needs to be a little bit easier on himself…” What does that mean? Does Nolin succumb to pressure? Does he flip out after a bad start? Is he a player that’s confidence can easily be influenced by result? When I watched his anticipated debut with the Blue Jays in May 2013, I would say it was more succumbing to pressure more than flipping out. He also got a few bad calls by the umpire and a couple of unfortunate breaks in the field, so yes, results could be a part of it too. Then again, jumping from AA to The Show is enough pressure for any young guy. So is it any surprise to anybody that he may have succumb to the pressure? Again, what is it that Allenson is trying to say there? And how come he seems to have a better grip on Stroman than Nolin? I hope this is just a situation of a coach playing poker and not revealing all of his cards.