Okay, think quick: who is the NCAA’s all time career strikeouts leader with 603 K’s? What about the career wins leader with 53? What about the single season strikeoutÂ champ with 205? It’s gotta be Mark Prior, right? He was the man while at Vandy and USC. Maybe Kris Benson? Paul Wilson? Wrong, wrong, and wrong again. While Prior, Benson and Wilson are widely considered to be the three greatest college pitchers ever, none of them even comes close to any of those records. Every man who has ever thrown a college baseball pitch in the history of the universe is looking up to one man: Mighty Matt DeSalvo. And to think, with all that collegiate success, he didn’t even get drafted.
Born Matthew Thomas DeSalvo, but perhaps better known as Mighty Matt (a moniker I originated at the outset of the season), the 6′-0″, 180 lb product of New Castle, Pennsylvania will become the tenth man to start a game for the Yankees this season when he toes the rubber tonight against the Mariners. That’s right, tenth. And yes, that is a record for the fewest number of games into the season in which a team has used 10 different starters. But unlike Chase Wright and Darrell Rasner before him, the Yanks are giving DeSalvo a chance to be something more than just a band-aid.
What makes Mighty Matt different? Why can he be the guy who stands out from the pack? It’s simple: experience (well, that and talent). Since 2004 Mighty Matt has thrownÂ 318.2 innings at or above the Double-A level, 18 more than Wright (34.1) and Rasner (266) have combined for at this point in their careers. And in those 318.2 innings DeSalvo has run the gauntlet: great success, great failure, mediocrity, adversity, cold weather, warm weather, starting games, coming out of the bullpen, control problems…you name it, he’s been through it at the highest non-big league levels.
Many are quick to point out his disasterous 2006 campaign, which saw him go 116.2 IP, 127 H, 99 R, 83 ER, 93 BB, 82 K, but DeSalvo was caught up in some personal problems (I heard everything from he was getting divorced to he split up with his high school sweetheat and everything in between, but I think it’s safe to say it involved some chick)Â which you can’t just dismiss. He’s a human being after all, and don’t tell me that personal stuff has never affected you at your job.
DeSalvo has gotten himself back on track this year, holding hitters to a .167-.286-.222 line overall. He’s absolutely dominated right handed hitters, limiting them to .109-.226-.152 with fewer walks (3.95 BBper9 against 4.62 overall) and more strikeouts (8.56 Kper9 vs 8.17). After a rocky first start to the year, DeSalvo has gone 22.2 IP, 10 H, 1 ER, 11 BB, 20 K in his last 4 appearances. Yes his walks will frustrate you, but he’s been walking alot of guys since college, so it’s not like having all those baserunners on will be foreign to him.
If you’ve never seen him pitch, DeSalvo’s motion is similar to Kevin Brown’s.Â He over-rotates and shows his back to the hitter before using allÂ thatÂ leverage to hurl himself towards the plate, something I’m a big fan of. His repetoire is seemingly endless: he throws a four-seam fastball, a two-seamer, a cutter, a split, two types of changeups (a straight change and one with fade), a spike knuckle-curve, a more loopy curve, a slurvy slider, aÂ forkball and the kitchen sink. Relying on deception rather than overpowering stuff, Mighty Matt throws all of those pitches from about half-a-dozen arm lots. That assortment of pitches and arm slots reminds meÂ of a former Yankee great: David Cone.
Does DeSalvo have Cone’s heart, stomach and brain? That remains to be seen. But for all you statheads out there, man do the numbers stack up mighty well (those are career minor league stats):
Cone:Â 7.85 Hper9, 4.53 BBper9, 6.64 Kper, 1.38 WHIP
DeSalvo: 7.48 Hper9, 4.59 BBper9, 8.40 Kper9, 1.34 WHIP
With the exception of strikeouts, all of the rate stats are within 5% of each other (4.95% to be exact). So, um, wow.
What do I expect from Mighty Matt tonight? When you consider that he’s facing a rather impatient Mariners’ lineup, I think he can do pretty well. I’m sure Joe “I think I’ll try and fuck with fateÂ by pinch running for Giambi in the middle of a perfect game” Torre will have a quick hook tonight, so I’m gonna go with 5.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 1 HB. I look forward to seeing how he does, he’s for sure the second most talented guy the Yanks have brought up from the minors this year.
What do y’all think?