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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Sharpening his pace, Sam Long sets himself up to take more innings for the SF Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — When Sam Long was called up for his first stint with the Giants last season, director of pitching Brian Bannister had a challenge for him: Just try to be as quick as Woody.

That fellow legendary starter Alex Wood is no better example of a pitcher who prioritizes promptness. Wood talks faster and works even faster on the mound. According to Baseball Sawant, only 14 pitchers take less time between pitches, and not many of them move body parts as fast as Wood does in his jerky but effective delivery.

Unlike Wood, who speaks with an accent that mimics his motion on the mound, Long lets each word roll off his tongue before moving on—or maybe even thinking about the next. Running fast on the mound didn’t come naturally.

Still, so far this season, Long is one of 14 pitchers who have worked faster than Wood.

“It was like his communication with me, just try to be quick as Woody,” Long said. “Okay, then I’ll be faster than that.”

Mission accomplished: In 12.7 seconds between pitches with empty bases, Long covered Wood’s average speed of 14.5 seconds by about 2 seconds. Only two pitchers in the Major — Chicago’s Wade Miley and Milwaukee’s Brent Sutter — have acted faster than Long this season.

“It’s hard not to notice. He’s friggin’ out there,” Wood said in a proud papa tone. “I think it’s been good for him because you keep pitching without even thinking about it.”

Wood, who has pitched with speed for as long as he can remember, has developed a quick and easy way to explain why it’s an effective way to get things done.

“When you’re on the mound, you’re either on offense or defense,” Wood said. “You can usually tell who’s taking offense and who’s on defense. You see Sammy Long, the way he’s throwing right now, he’s aggressive.”

The results were most recently displayed on Saturday against the Dodgers, as Long won through three scoreless innings against the top-scoring lineup in the Major. He did not allow a run in nine innings, in four appearances, this season reducing his ERA to 2.00.

The Giants have an opening in their rotation for Wednesday’s finale against the Royals, and while they haven’t announced any official plans, Long is considered a strong candidate.

After Long’s three shutout innings against the Dodgers, manager Gabe Kapler said, “He is very comfortable pitching in a bulk role early in the game, during which his velocity reached 96 mph, a notable increase from the previous season. was growth.

Although Bannister first spoke about building momentum during Long’s brief stint in San Francisco last season, it took some time for Long to incorporate Salah. This is the first season when he has worked at such a consistent pace.

“It’s one of those adjustments where it doesn’t look great at first,” Long said. “It was a little uncomfortable. The idea of ​​moving away from what has worked for the most part in the past to hopefully improve it, is a leap of faith. But it’s nice to know that the people we have here know that. What they’re talking about, so it’s easy to trust their ideas.”

Long’s adjustment embodies the team-wide philosophy promoted by the Giants’ pitching coaches: San Francisco has four of the 20 fastest employees at the majors – Long, Wood, John Brebia and Logan Webb – while any other team has more than two. are not.

But Long expanded the range to speed things up beyond the time between pitches.

He also shaves a second off the time it takes him to complete his delivery, which he says is a major factor in the effectiveness of his turnaround this season. Hitters are batting .160 against the pitch this year and taking 32.7% of the time compared to .222 average and 29.7% whiff rate last season.

As recently as last year, Long took between 2.9 and 3.1 seconds to get the pitch out of the windup, but he said he had reduced the average time from 2.1 to 2.2 seconds and even That has also taken time below 2 ticks.

“It’s hard for a hitter to feel timed when I throw my changeup at that tempo,” Long said. “When I was slow they could make adjustments sooner. But they are a little too fast in the box right now.”

When he’s on the mound he tries to block out extraneous noise, but he finds satisfaction in hearing his fellow opponents make noises from the dugout.

“I don’t really listen,” Long said, “but people will say when I come out of the mound they’ll be screaming from the dugout, ‘Slow him down! Slow him down!’ … there are some batsmen who like to take a little longer, which is fine for me. It can annoy them when I pace.”

How often does he notice a hitter being terrified of his pace?

“At least one outing,” Long said with a smile.

Wood has developed a reputation for not only working fast between pitches but also for not wasting time with his warm-up. It is a common sight for Wood to stand on the mound, waiting for a catcher to catch him.

World Nation News Desk
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