It’s often said that numbers don’t lie. But that’s hardly a universal or unimpeachable truth. If numbers don’t exactly lie, they sure can be misleading or at the very least, be prone to distortion. A lot of factors go into formulating data and stats and sometimes the cold, hard printout doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. Often numbers aren’t just black and white. Where they sometimes reside is in a grey area.
Take Bakersfield Blaze pitcher Jon Moscot, for example. Entering a July 11th game versus Lake Elsinore, Moscot was carrying around with him some ugly and unflattering math. His won-loss record was an absolute eyesore at 1 and 12. On the surface, one would think you almost have to be trying to be that bad, that inept. I mean, those are such scary numbers, they’d even have Freddie Krueger peeing in his pants.
Most pitchers who owned such a disastrous ledger would probably be looking for a way out. Like early retirement or maybe joining the Witness Protection Program. Perhaps they might even seek out a towering bridge from which to take a fateful leap in order to take them out of their misery. At 1 and 12, finding any means of escape seems preferable to sticking it out and enduring the possibility of more disappointment, embarrassment, or dare I say, humiliation.
The more I stared at Moscot’s record, a morbid fascination overtaking me, the more I wondered about the kid. Sometimes detailing the circumstances of ballplayers who are struggling or are stuck in a morass of adversity, make for the most interesting of reads. And since I was just down the road apiece from where Moscot would be pitching that night, I must confess a dark curiosity got the best of me. I needed to see for myself if this young pitcher really was a walking trainwreck.
I arrived at the the ballpark in Lake Elsinore early enough to observe Moscot warming up in the visitor’s bullpen, near the right field line. I immediately made two observations. While delivering his pitches, the 22-year-old right-hander seemed to have his weight too far back, thereby compromising his forward push.
He was also bouncing more than a few pitches in the dirt. He was clearly overthrowing both his fastball and off-speed pitches. But reading too much into a bullpen session can be tricky. Sometimes a pitcher can be razor sharp while warming up and then stink it up in a game. Conversely, there are those occasions when a hurler can’t find his rhythm or control while unlimbering, only to be lights-out when he steps on the mound. What happens in the pen doesn’t necessarily translate to what will take place on the field. But if Moscot’s pregame showing was a barometer of how he would fare that night, an early shower seemed likely.
Once he concluded warming up, Moscot slowly ambled toward the visiting dugout. Even from a distance, his 6-4 height stood out. His frame was lanky and his legs seemed to go on forever. He appeared at ease and relaxed as he shared a laugh with teammate Yovan Gonzalez. Moscot then playfully patted his catcher on the shoulder before descending the dugout steps. I expected someone saddled with a 1 and 12 mark to look worried, preoccupied, unnerved and anxious. Moscot betrayed none of those traits. To all the world, he looked calm and composed.
But it didn’t take long before Moscot ran into some trouble. The hometown Storm parlayed a first inning single by Jedd Gyorko, a Padre big leaguer on a rehab assignment, and a double by A.J. Kirby-Jones into a quick run. Both hits were pulled sharply into left field and came off pitches that had little movement. Moscot had grooved them. These room service deliveries were just begging to be hit and Gyorko and Kirby-Jones were more than happy to oblige. Early on, Moscot’s fastballs were straight and his curves showed little snap. At that moment, Moscot seemed destined to absorb his 13th loss of the year.
But soon after, he began to click. Slowly but surely, Moscot started finding the range with almost everything he threw. He was building up to a nice momentum. Operating primarily from the extreme right side of the rubber and utilizing an emphatic leg kick, the Red farmhand got on a roll.
A heater that wasn’t effective early, suddenly increased in velocity, and eventually topped out at 93 mph. Now his fastball was an asset because it had some hop to it and Moscot was spotting it impressively. A nice sweeping curve, heretofore missing, and a deceptive change-up were also stifling the Storm.
Moreover, Moscot was winning the mind game. He was clearly outwitting his foes. Confident in his stuff, he did a splendid job of setting up hitters, getting them to chase, and confusing them with deception. He became unpredictable. He wisely varied his pattern so that the opposition was never sure of what was coming. Moscot had them guessing and flailing.
After his sluggish start, Moscot found a zone and took it from there. By the time he was through, the righty had posted a nifty pitching line. In six innings of efficient work, he had yielded just five hits, but one run and had fanned seven. Just as importantly, he didn’t surrender a single walk. There was no arguing that Moscot had delivered a praiseworthy performance.
And when his teammates scored thrice in the seventh inning and once more in the eighth, it looked like Moscot would finally secure his second win of the season. Well, hallelujah! But alas, the 4-1 lead didn’t hold up. Sadly, Moscot became the victim of cruel misfortune. The Storm rallied back and ultimately captured a 5-4 victory, the winning run coming via three wild pitches. If Moscot didn’t feel snakebit beforehand, he certainly had to after his club had wasted his superb effort, cost him a win and literally given the game away.
Moscot’s splendid outing got me to thinking that maybe his record wasn’t an accurate reflection of his abilities. I wondered if maybe here was a pitcher who was better than advertised. Perhaps he was somewhat star-crossed or cursed. Or maybe he was a prisoner of circumstances beyond his control.
One thing’s for sure. Moscot isn’t pitching for any sort of a juggernaut. With the exasperating loss to the Storm, Bakersfield’s record dropped to an unsightly 36 and 56. Moscot is fronting for an inferior club. Bakersfield’s excessive number of errors and its’ rather mediocre team batting average make it very apparent that pitching for the Blaze isn’t any cakewalk. Though Moscot must accept a lion’s share of the responsibility for what has befallen him, it’s fair to suggest that the team playing behind him hasn’t done him any favors, either with the bat or glove. Moscot would probably have just cause in suing for a lack of support.
But again, Moscot isn’t without fault. He can’t excuse away all his problems. Entering the game against the Storm, Moscot’s stat line wasn’t a thing of beauty. His ERA (5.22), number of walks (33) and hits-per-inning (91in 89.2) were much too inflated. However, his strikeout total (90) was encouraging and suggests he may have enough upside to bear watching.
Moscot didn’t come to the Cincinnati organization as some sort of scrub. His credentials were solid and legit. The right-hander had been a frontline and productive pitcher at Pepperdine, a school with a highly respected baseball program. And the Reds’ belief in him was such that the club invested a 4th round pick on him in last year’s MLB amateur draft.
Moscot’s has only been a pro for a little over a year, so he’s still just a pup in that regard. Hence, it’s way too early to come to any definitive conclusion about his long-term prospects. At this stage, does he look like a big leaguer in the making? That seems doubtful but stranger things have happened. His taming of the Storm was intriguing enough so that you want to see more. And his impressive strikeout total can’t be ignored or dismissed.
Is Moscot really a 1 and 12 pitcher? Well, now make it 1 and 14. Though he pitched decently in his two outings since facing the Storm, a couple more losses have added to Moscot’s agony.
Is that atrocious mark truly representative of his skills and talents? Given the team he toils for and other variables, that record might be full of deception. Having seen him live and in the flesh, something tells this writer that Moscot transcends many of his lackluster numbers. That as a pitcher, he’s got ample grit and resolve because under the most trying of circumstances, Moscot continues to take the ball and battle. Instead of shying away from the fight, he seems to embrace it. The will to compete is still there. Moscot keeps plugging away, showing no signs of giving in.
That alone makes him fascinating enough to follow and track, to monitor his progress or lack thereof. And it’s hard to imagine him facing a stiffer and sterner test in his pro career than what he’s dealing with right now.
One and 14 can either make or break you. Moscot will soon find out which it is with him.
Source; bakersfieldblaze.com-Roster-Jon Moscot/Schedule-July 11-L 4-5.