MacLane Controlling Himself to Success

When it comes down to predicting if a minor league player will have success at the major league level there are certain categories to look for. One is an Age/Level relationship. If the player hitting .340 with 20 homers in Rookie Ball, yes that it impressive, but if the player is 24 years old, it makes you look the other direction. The next two principles deal with "peripheral stats". Control ratio and power ratio are two categories that fit under that principle.

Walks-per-innings-pitched is a ratio that tells a lot about a minor league pitcher. It tells us whether a pitcher is consistently throwing strikes and has command of all his pitches. The Power ratio (SO:IP) is also important for pitchers. You can't expect a minor league pitcher who is not dominating the minor leagues to be successful in the majors. Strikeouts-to-innings pitchers and walks-to-strikeouts are the two ratios involved in this.

When you take a look at Cyclones starter Evan MacLane you definitely see many of those principles in his stats. In one year MacLane has steadily climbed the Mets minor league system. He was drafted in the 25th round of the 2003 draft and began his professional career in Rookie Ball, with the Kingsport Mets. MacLane cruised in Kingsport, and in 56 innings allowed just 59 hits while striking out 57 and walking just 8 batters. MacLane then got the call to Brooklyn and was a key factor in the Cyclones postseason, pitching two of the Cyclones five postseason games. In 16 total innings with the Cyclones MacLane allowed 12 hits while walking 2 and striking out 13.

The big test for MacLane came this year, when he began the season with the Capital City Bombers. MacLane was 5-2 with a 2.39 ERA for the Bombers in the South Atlantic League (A). He allowed just 10 walks and struck out 66 batters in 67 innings pitched. MacLane was ready for the next level which would be St. Lucie, and was even told by the organization that he is ready to pitch at St. Lucie. However MacLane would be making the trip north, instead of south. MacLane was sent to Brooklyn to be the veteran arm in the Cyclones rotation. That did not come as a surprise to MacLane as he was told in Spring Training about his plans come mid-June.

MacLane will be the Cyclones opening game starter in the New-York Penn League playoffs come Monday night and has certainly lived up to his job as anchoring this staff. In 74 innings for the Cyclones he allowed just 70 hits, while striking out 70 and walking just 6 batters.

MacLane is your basic soft tossing fastball-changeup left hand pitcher, however has made considerable progress this year in his development. MacLane finished last season throwing his fastball in the 84-85 mph range, however through constant mechanical work has increased his fastball by 4 mph and now throws it in a respectable 88-89 range. He has also made progressions with his curveball and is now able to get it consistently over the plate and throw it for strikes, and combine all that with his changeup, his best pitch, and success is very easily spelled out.

"Adding those extra miles per hour on my fastball really helped me in terms of using my other pitches effectively" said MacLane. "With that little extra on my fastball I can now strike them out with my fastball, instead of just showing it to them."

MacLane recently had a 10 strikeout performance with the Cyclones, with 8 of the strikeouts occurring with MacLane throwing his curveball in the two strike count.

"My curveball just keeps getting better every time I throw it. It feels better and I feel I can throw it harder and harder and it is just starting to get sharper and now that is a pitch I use as my out pitch as well" right California right hander said.

"Before I was throwing a lot of changeups and curveballs, but now I am using more of a fastball and that just makes my changeup and curveball that much more effective."

In 213.2 total minor league innings thrown, MacLane has walked just 26 batters while striking out 206. Clearly his walks-per-innings-pitched ratio is opening eyes to management and fans of the New York Mets.

"It is all focus, it is all understanding what your body needs to do to get to the right spot and then concentrating on throwing the ball where you want and fortunately I have had lots of success doing that" say's MacLane.

Whether or not MacLane will be successful down the road is not the question. The main question is what type of role MacLane will best be successful in. During his minor league career, MacLane has been used both as a starter and a reliever. The key on which role settles in to will based upon his further development of his curveball and the possibility of adding another pitch.

MacLane worked on a slider earlier in the year with Capital City, however dropped it as be began feeling pain in his arm. He acknowledges that adding a fourth pitch is needed to have the same success in higher levels, and he has been talking with the Mets minor league coaching staff in developing a slider.

"That is what we have been talking about lately" MacLane said. "The slider is needed mainly to get left hand hitters out and get them off my curveball a little. Right now being a 12-6 variety they could see it pretty well, and the organization wants me to add a pitch the moves from side to side, instead of up and down."

"There really is no hurry, and they say it is the easiest pitch to learn in baseball so once I master my other pitches a little more then I will begin focusing more on my slider."

MacLane is often seen on the field of KeySpan Park working on his conditioning and on his mechanics in the bullpen. All that extra work has made his arm feel stronger and stronger as the season as gone on, and at this point in the season.

MacLane might be making a trip to Columbia and rejoin his Capital City team if the Cyclones get eliminated early and the Bombers need some arms for their own playoff run. No matter his destination before departing for California, MacLane has certainly had a long season, and as a result the Mets have told him to rest his arm this winter. MacLane will head back home to Chico, California and become a normal young adult by working out in the morning and then heading off to a part time job.

"Right now it probably is the strongest it ever has been" MacLane said referring to his left arm. "It is in great shape, I am starting to throw the ball harder, my mechanics are getting better, everything is just coming together at this point of the season, and that is what you want. With playoffs coming up you want to peak at this point of the season and go out with your best stuff."

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