The Mets new closer, Eddie Kunz can stand proud and tall of his most recent title. Actually, it has only been by standing tall, that Kunz will have a chance to close for the Mets at all.
For at least the next few days, Kunz will get a chance to be the Mets interim closer, interim manager Jerry Manuel told MLB.com after Monday’s bullpen meltdown. The plan as of this writing is that Kunz will close games while John Maine recovers from his start Wednesday, and then Maine will hold the back of the bullpen until Billy Wagner returns.
In 2007, Kunz had a problem. He walked eight batters in 12 innings in the NYP League on his way to a 6.75 ERA. In the Arizona Fall League, a very advanced placement for a first year player, Kunz walked eight in 10.2 IP on his way to a 10.13 ERA.
In April 2008, Kunz had a smaller problem. He walked six batters in 10.2 IP on his was to a 5.06 ERA.
By July, Kunz skated through 11.1 innings at double-Binghamton by walking one and striking out eight without allowing a single run.
What changed for the massive 6’5” 250+ lb righty? He stood up. When he was struggling to throw strikes, Kunz says he was “leaning a bit more forward when I was pitching and I couldn’t keep control of my fastball which was tailing away from me more than I liked.” Now he says, “I stay more straight up and I’m more compact and I make myself more balanced coming to pick my leg up.”
|Old Leaning Kunz||New Taller Balanced Kunz|
Kunz has adjusted to his new balance. “I definitely feel a lot more comfortable,” he says, “at first it was a little bit hard to get used to, but when I saw the results from it, it helped me out a lot.” One change Kunz has noticed is that he can locate better and now, “I can get inside to left-handers. It used to be a struggle in the beginning of the season, but it’s getting easier and easier every time.”
Lefthanders hit Kunz to a .270/.372/.338 line in double-A while righties were a feeble .186/.282/.216 against the big outdoorsman. One scout’s explanation was that since Kunz throws from a low arm slot, he’ll always have trouble against lefties who see the ball much earlier than their righty counterparts.
Secondly, at double-A, Kunz was working with a new pitching pattern, learning to throw his short hard slider to lefties. He notes that this is something he’s “been working on a lot.” He’s still trying “to get used to backdooring it” while his other option is to “break it in and get it in on their ankles.” As a closer for the College World Series Champion Oregon State Beavers, Kunz says, “I stuck with fastball/slider to righties and I was more of a changeup/fastball to lefties.” As a B-Met, Kunz rarely ever threw the changeup, a pitch he says, “has always been there” for him. Rather, in the minors, he explains, the organization’s priority was for him to “develop that slider so I can throw it to more people ….[and] have three pitches to each side.”
In the show now, the Mets bullpen will take anything that works.
- The Mets drafted Kunz with their first pick, 42nd overall, in 2007.
- Kunz’ favorite food is a nice plate of nachos with chicken, loaded with toppings
- On August 3rd, I wrote a post about Kunz in which I quoted a scout praising Kunz’s fastball for its “heavy, nasty sink.” On August 9th, Marty Noble wrote an entire column on the subject.