Phillies' Jake Diekman is throwing heat

Reliever Jake Diekman's fastball has traveled at an average velocity of 95.4 m.p.h during his two major-league seasons. It's up to 97.3 m.p.h. in his last 12 games, as he has posted a 0.77 earned run average in that span. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Reliever Jake Diekman's fastball has traveled at an average velocity of 95.4 m.p.h during his two major-league seasons. It's up to 97.3 m.p.h. in his last 12 games, as he has posted a 0.77 earned run average in that span. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Posted: September 11, 2013

The transformation began four summers ago with a bullpen session at the Jersey Shore. Ten games at single-A Lakewood yielded a 6.93 ERA, and like every 30th-round draft pick, Jake Diekman faced baseball mortality. He was called into a meeting with three Phillies officials. They asked the lanky lefthander to throw side-armed.

"It was either that or probably get released," Diekman said. "So, yeah."

Bob Milacki, Lakewood's pitching coach, issued simple instructions: "See how low you can go." Diekman, now one of the hardest-throwing Phillies relievers in the last decade, reenacted it last weekend. His left knuckle almost scraped the clubhouse floor at Citizens Bank Park.

"No, that's too low," Milacki told him. "See if you can just be parallel with the ground."

The Phillies want to believe a dependable - maybe even a dominant - reliever was created that moment. Diekman is 26 and throwing better than ever. Opposing hitters complain about the way his unusual delivery hides the baseball, and when they see it, it is traveling at a powerful speed.

"Commitment, freedom, and trust," Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "If you're tense, the ball doesn't come out of your hand the same way."

Diekman's fastball has traveled at an average velocity of 95.4 m.p.h during his two major-league seasons. That ranks third-fastest behind all Phillies pitchers since 2002, according to FanGraphs.com, trailing Billy Wagner (96.7 m.p.h.) and Felix Rodriguez (95.6 m.p.h.).

Dubee is infatuated with Diekman - he said two springs ago he would quit his job to serve as the pitcher's agent - and encouraged by the recent results. Diekman pitched Saturday against Atlanta and struck out Freddie Freeman and Evan Gattis with eight pitches. He threw Gattis, a man who crushes baseballs with great frequency, a first-pitch fastball on the black. Gattis swatted it to the screen for strike one. The ball left Diekman's hand at 99.85 m.p.h., according to PITCHf/x data.

Diekman has gained velocity on his fastball every month. His average velocity this season is 96.7 m.p.h. It was 95.7 m.p.h. in 2012. He is throwing it even harder since Aug. 11; a 0.77 ERA in his last 12 games has coincided with a 97.3-m.p.h. average fastball.

He throws his slider with a harder bite. The average velocity on that pitch has increased by more than 2 m.p.h. from 2012 to 2013. He said he reached a better understanding of the kinetics involved with throwing from the side.

"I feel like I can smooth out my mechanics some more and fine-tune everything," Diekman said. "I know pitch to pitch what I need to do and what I didn't do right on that last pitch."

Diekman did not look quite as confident when the games carried more meaning earlier in the season. Overall, there is marked improvement from 2012. He has cut his walk rate nearly in half. Lefthanded hitters are 9 for 54 (.167) with nine singles and 21 strikeouts.

"It's a product of being here the second or third time around," Dubee said. "It's a product of us not being in a pennant race. These kids came up last year thinking, 'We have to win six in a row. These guys have won the last five years.' That's a lot of heat. This is just relax and play."

Is it smart to evaluate them in this atmosphere?

"You have to judge them on this," Dubee said. "You have to be somewhat happy about the way they are breaking through some of the barriers."


Keeping Fast Company

Hardest Phillies throwers since 2002

Player   M.P.H   

1. Billy Wagner (2004-05)    96.7    

2. Felix Rodriguez (2004)    95.6   

3. Jake Diekman (2012-13)    95.4   

4. B.J. Rosenberg (2012-13)    94.8   

5. Francisco Rosario (2007)    94.7   

6. Phillippe Aumont (2012-13)    94.7   

Source: FanGraphs.com

Diekman's fastball velocity by month

Month   Fastball (m.p.h.)   

May 2012   94.9   

June    96.2   

July    95.8   

September    95.2   

October   96.2   

June 2013   96.0   

July    96.3   

August   97.3   

September   97.0   

Source: BrooksBaseball.net


Contact Matt Gelb

at mgelb@phillynews.com.

Follow on Twitter @magelb.


 

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