Offseason Q&A with Bobby Keppel

InsidePitchMagazine.com sits down with Norfolk Tides' starting pitcher Bobby Keppel for a Q&A session to find out the extent of his injuries last season, what type of pitcher he is, who he has been most impressed with in the Mets' system, what he would say to the critics that point out he doesn't strike out enough batters, and more.

InsidePitchMagazine.com: Bobby, tell us about your injuries last season.

Bob Keppel: I had two injuries last year. I had rotator cuff tendonitis, I guess you could call it, in my pitching shoulder back in March. They had Scott Erickson and James Baldwin at Norfolk so the Mets kept me down in St. Lucie for a couple of starts and then I got promoted to Norfolk after Baldwin was promoted to the Mets. I was struggling at the beginning, but I had a strong second half. I figured it out once. I think I had something like a 2.90 ERA the second half. Anyway, my pitching shoulder went out again at the end of August and the Mets decided to shut me down for the rest of the year. They took a bunch of MRI's and they all came back negative. It was really comforting to know that there was nothing structurally wrong with my shoulder.

Inside Pitch: Tell us about your season last year, from a pitching point of view.

Keppel: Well I was healthy when I got to Norfolk in May so I can't blame my performance on that. It was a learning experience for sure. I didn't do well in the beginning. I think I might have gone 0-6 to start the year, or something like that, but the coaches worked with me and I finally turned things around when I started pitching to my strengths and not the hitters' weaknesses. But I'm 22 years old and in AAA. I couldn't have asked for this five years ago.

Inside Pitch: Diving into that point more, what are your strengths on the mound?

Keppel: I am a ground-ball pitcher that lets my defense work behind me. I pitch a quick game and go right after hitters. I just get ahead in the count and let the defense work. My goal is to get hitters out in three pitches.

Inside Pitch: Some pundits have noted that your lack of strikeouts hurt your overall projection as a Major League pitcher. What would you say to that?

Keppel: Well, I'd say look at your 3,4, and 5 pitchers in the Majors. Not too many of them are one strikeout per inning type of guys. My goal is to work quickly, keep my pitch counts low, and get guys out in three pitches or less. You're not going to get and opportunity for too many strikeouts if you're goal is to get guys out quickly in three pitches or less. My goal is to hand to the game over to the closer and you can only do that by keeping your pitch counts at a minimum. Sure my strikeout totals are lower that I wanted, but my goal is to have quality starts, not high strikeout totals. Besides, I work on getting the quality strikeouts. You know, when there's a guy on third with one out or less, that's when I'm up there trying to strike batters out.

Inside Pitch: Would you say you are hyped up on the mound, or more calm?

Keppel: (laughing) I know where you are going with this. I saw your interview with Jake (Michael Jacobs). Look, being so young, sometimes I might show too much energy out there on the mound. But I'm having fun out there. I am having fun when I'm pitching and sometimes that comes across as cocky at times. I don't want to consider this a job. I'm having fun out there.

Inside Pitch: What are your goals for next season?

Keppel: The way I look at it is, I want to have a full healthy season. That's my main goal. When I'm healthy, I know I am a Major League pitcher. I am still perfecting my craft but I want to stay healthy, and when I do get up there (the Majors), I want to stay there.

Inside Pitch: You mentioned you are still perfecting your craft. What is the one area you think you need to improve the most in order to do that?

Keppel: It would be improving my command of my fastball in all four quadrants of the plate. I'd like to improve the command of my fastball and also develop a more consistent strikeout pitch. I've been toying with a split-finger to do just that.

Inside Pitch: On that note, give us a little insight to your repertoire. What kind of pitches do you throw and what speeds?

Keppel: I throw a sinker, a 4-seam fastball, a slider, a curveball, a changeup, and like I mentioned, I've been toying with a splitter. My sinker, or 2-seamer, is my best pitch. That pitch is around 89-92 MPH. My 4-seamer is around 91-94 MPH. Right now, my slider is my best strikeout pitch and that's about 84-86 MPH. My curve is 78 MPH or so and my changeup is about 80-83 MPH. The changeup is my best "go to" pitch.

Inside Pitch: Who do you think you resemble, pitching-wise, at the Major League level?

Keppel: My goal out there is to get through the inning in 15 pitches or less. You know, get a 7-inning game with 100 pitches or less and give the team a good quality start with an excellent chance to win. So in that regard, I think I'm more like Steve Trachsel. He's a guy I'd love to be like. I work quicker in speed than him, but he gets the job done. He too is not a big strikeout guy either. I'd say I compare to the likes of Trachsel, Brandon Webb, or Derek Lowe in my style of pitching. I might not look pretty doing it, but when I'm on, I get the job done. Perfection to me is getting a quality start and giving my team a chance to win.

Inside Pitch: Of the pitchers you've seen in the Mets' farm system, which pitchers do you think have the highest ceiling?

Keppel: Brian Bannister and Matthew Lindstrom are two guys I think have real good upside to them. Bannister is a guy that just knows how to pitch. He's not just throwing out there, he really knows what he's doing. And he's always working hard to improve. He's a true student of the game. Lindstrom is a guy I haven't seen that much of, but he has an electric fastball and a great slider. Both are coming along real well.

Inside Pitch: Among the positional players, which ones have the highest upside in your opinion?

Keppel: Well, I don't think you're going to find a better hitter than Jake (Michael Jacobs). He just has a knack for hitting. He kind of reminds me of Chipper Jones at the plate. He is just so clutch at the plate and he is a pure hitter. I also like Shawn Bowman too. I haven't seen that much of him, but he's a real character guy and plays hard. He's got some real talent too. He kind of reminds me of the way David Wright was at the same level. He plays good defense and his work ethic is going to carry his natural talent.

Inside Pitch: Is there a guy you would say that is a possible "sleeper"? Is there somebody that does not get the attention they deserve but it somebody you believe will be a good Major League ball player?

Keppel: I don't know if this guy qualifies as a sleeper or not, but Angel Pagan has all the tools. He can hit, run, throw, play defense, etc. He does it all on a baseball field. He's not a 25 home run guy or anything, but I think he could hit 10-12 home runs. He just sets the table for the team and reaks havoc on the base paths. Teams would want that, I assume.

Inside Pitch: In your opinion, tell us who you think has the best fastballs in the Mets' system. Rank your top five guys.

Keppel: Wow! Well, I am not going to rank them one through five, but I'll give you five names. Jeremy Hill, Matt Lindstrom, Kole Strayhorn, Philip Humber, and Aaron Heilman. I've never seen Humber pitch but I hear he hits 97 MPH or something so you have to put him in the top five.

Inside Pitch: One final question, since you brought his name up: what are your impressions of Aaron Heilman?

Keppel: His second half of the season last year was truly amazing. There wasn't a better pitcher in AAA in August last year. He was just amazing. I think he's going to be a quality pitcher. I think the problem with him is, he thinks too much out there and is just too mechanical. When he just throws, and wings it, he's awesome.

InsidePitchMagazine.com would like to thank Bobby Keppel for taking the time this offseason to answer our questions. We'll check in with Bobby throughout the 2005 season.

Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nInsidePitchMagazine.com: Bobby, tell us about your injuries last season.
\r\n
\r\nBob Keppel: I had two injuries last year. I had rotator cuff tendonitis, I guess you could call it, in my pitching shoulder back in March. They had Scott Erickson and James Baldwin at Norfolk so the Mets kept me down in St. Lucie for a couple of starts and then I got promoted to Norfolk after Baldwin was promoted to the Mets. I was struggling at the beginning, but I had a strong second half. I figured it out once. I think I had something like a 2.90 ERA the second half. Anyway, my pitching shoulder went out again at the end of August and the Mets decided to shut me down for the rest of the year. They took a bunch of MRI's and they all came back negative. It was really comforting to know that there was nothing structurally wrong with my shoulder.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Tell us about your season last year, from a pitching point of view.
\r\n
\r\nKeppel: Well I was healthy when I got to Norfolk in May so I can't blame my performance on that. It was a learning experience for sure. I didn't do well in the beginning. I think I might have gone 0-6 to start the year, or something like that, but the coaches worked with me and I finally turned things around when I started pitching to my strengths and not the hitters' weaknesses. But I'm 22 years old and in AAA. I couldn't have asked for this five years ago.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Diving into that point more, what are your strengths on the mound?
\r\n
\r\nKeppel: I am a ground-ball pitcher that lets my defense work behind me. I pitch a quick game and go right after hitters. I just get ahead in the count and let the defense work. My goal is to get hitters out in three pitches.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Some pundits have noted that your lack of strikeouts hurt your overall projection as a Major League pitcher. What would you say to that?
\r\n
\r\nKeppel: Well, I'd say look at your 3,4, and 5 pitchers in the Majors. Not too many of them are one strikeout per inning type of guys. My goal is to work quickly, keep my pitch counts low, and get guys out in three pitches or less. You're not going to get and opportunity for too many strikeouts if you're goal is to get guys out quickly in three pitches or less. My goal is to hand to the game over to the closer and you can only do that by keeping your pitch counts at a minimum. Sure my strikeout totals are lower that I wanted, but my goal is to have quality starts, not high strikeout totals. Besides, I work on getting the quality strikeouts. You know, when there's a guy on third with one out or less, that's when I'm up there trying to strike batters out.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Would you say you are hyped up on the mound, or more calm?
\r\n
\r\nKeppel: (laughing) I know where you are going with this. I saw your interview with Jake (Michael Jacobs). Look, being so young, sometimes I might show too much energy out there on the mound. But I'm having fun out there. I am having fun when I'm pitching and sometimes that comes across as cocky at times. I don't want to consider this a job. I'm having fun out there.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: What are your goals for next season?
\r\n
\r\nKeppel: The way I look at it is, I want to have a full healthy season. That's my main goal. When I'm healthy, I know I am a Major League pitcher. I am still perfecting my craft but I want to stay healthy, and when I do get up there (the Majors), I want to stay there.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: You mentioned you are still perfecting your craft. What is the one area you think you need to improve the most in order to do that?
\r\n
\r\nKeppel: It would be improving my command of my fastball in all four quadrants of the plate. I'd like to improve the command of my fastball and also develop a more consistent strikeout pitch. I've been toying with a split-finger to do just that.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: On that note, give us a little insight to your repertoire. What kind of pitches do you throw and what speeds?
\r\n
\r\nKeppel: I throw a sinker, a 4-seam fastball, a slider, a curveball, a changeup, and like I mentioned, I've been toying with a splitter. My sinker, or 2-seamer, is my best pitch. That pitch is around 89-92 MPH. My 4-seamer is around 91-94 MPH. Right now, my slider is my best strikeout pitch and that's about 84-86 MPH. My curve is 78 MPH or so and my changeup is about 80-83 MPH. The changeup is my best \"go to\" pitch.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Who do you think you resemble, pitching-wise, at the Major League level?
\r\n
\r\nKeppel: My goal out there is to get through the inning in 15 pitches or less. You know, get a 7-inning game with 100 pitches or less and give the team a good quality start with an excellent chance to win. So in that regard, I think I'm more like Steve Trachsel. He's a guy I'd love to be like. I work quicker in speed than him, but he gets the job done. He too is not a big strikeout guy either. I'd say I compare to the likes of Trachsel, Brandon Webb, or Derek Lowe in my style of pitching. I might not look pretty doing it, but when I'm on, I get the job done. Perfection to me is getting a quality start and giving my team a chance to win.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Of the pitchers you've seen in the Mets' farm system, which pitchers do you think have the highest ceiling?
\r\n
\r\nKeppel: Brian Bannister and Matthew Lindstrom are two guys I think have real good upside to them. Bannister is a guy that just knows how to pitch. He's not just throwing out there, he really knows what he's doing. And he's always working hard to improve. He's a true student of the game. Lindstrom is a guy I haven't seen that much of, but he has an electric fastball and a great slider. Both are coming along real well.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Among the positional players, which ones have the highest upside in your opinion?
\r\n
\r\nKeppel: Well, I don't think you're going to find a better hitter than Jake (Michael Jacobs). He just has a knack for hitting. He kind of reminds me of Chipper Jones at the plate. He is just so clutch at the plate and he is a pure hitter. I also like Shawn Bowman too. I haven't seen that much of him, but he's a real character guy and plays hard. He's got some real talent too. He kind of reminds me of the way David Wright was at the same level. He plays good defense and his work ethic is going to carry his natural talent.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Is there a guy you would say that is a possible \"sleeper\"? Is there somebody that does not get the attention they deserve but it somebody you believe will be a good Major League ball player?
\r\n
\r\nKeppel: I don't know if this guy qualifies as a sleeper or not, but Angel Pagan has all the tools. He can hit, run, throw, play defense, etc. He does it all on a baseball field. He's not a 25 home run guy or anything, but I think he could hit 10-12 home runs. He just sets the table for the team and reaks havoc on the base paths. Teams would want that, I assume.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: In your opinion, tell us who you think has the best fastballs in the Mets' system. Rank your top five guys.
\r\n
\r\nKeppel: Wow! Well, I am not going to rank them one through five, but I'll give you five names. Jeremy Hill, Matt Lindstrom, Kole Strayhorn, Philip Humber, and Aaron Heilman. I've never seen Humber pitch but I hear he hits 97 MPH or something so you have to put him in the top five.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: One final question, since you brought his name up: what are your impressions of Aaron Heilman?
\r\n
\r\nKeppel: His second half of the season last year was truly amazing. There wasn't a better pitcher in AAA in August last year. He was just amazing. I think he's going to be a quality pitcher. I think the problem with him is, he thinks too much out there and is just too mechanical. When he just throws, and wings it, he's awesome.
\r\n
\r\nInsidePitchMagazine.com would like to thank Bobby Keppel for taking the time this offseason to answer our questions. We'll check in with Bobby throughout the 2005 season.
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