Name: Steve Delabar
DOB: July 17, 1983
In 15 of his 27 starts, the right-hander walked three or more batters. His average against for the season, however, was a slim .242.
After three solid outings, Delabar hit a three-start rough patch before settling in and finding his groove, allowing two runs or less in seven of his next eight starts – allowing more than four hits just twice during that span.
"I like Delabar quite a bit," Padres' pitching consultant Bob Cluck admitted. "He knows how to pitch."
The end of the year showed a little wear on his arm and the walk totals escalated while the runs against stayed relatively low. He yielded two runs or less in 15 of his starts on the season and held the opposition to a .222 average with runners in scoring position.
He was particularly effective against left-handed hitters, using his slider to get outs.
Command remains his biggest problem.
Hearing Delabar talk, it would be easy to believe that he is a wreck on the mound, arms flailing and legs whipping wildly through his motion. The truth is, while he does do some tinkering with his mechanics, he has a clean repeatable delivery. Attuned to his body, he knows what feels right and what feels wrong.
The problem is he is always trying to do something to give him a more consistent release point and get on top of his pitches. So, while the appearance is smooth, the total package eats at his mind.
His tinkering began to takes its toll. He listened to all the opinions, tried them all, but couldn't gain a comfort level. He felt when some of the bigger honchos came into town he had to be that much sharper and wound up being pretty dull.
His biggest challenge is taking in what he is being told and filtering the information down to what he can use.
"We changed him around a little bit," 2006 Fort Wayne pitching coach Tom Bradley said. "Mike Couchee, our pitching coordinator, any time I would want to do something like that I would clear it with Mike. I am not just going to all of a sudden decide, ‘let's change his arm angle.'
"We tried to get Steve to tweak his delivery and mechanics a little bit where he was separating his hands a little sooner so his arm could get up and work better and be in the zone a little bit better."
By filtering the information properly, he can gain consistency and keep the ball down in the zone.
"Stevie has a good arm, no question," 2006 manager Randy Ready said. "Consistency is going to be the name of his game on whether or not he moves up the ladder or not. When I say consistency, consistency with his command, consistency with his secondary pitches, he has developed a nice changeup, and consistency with repeating his delivery. Factor all those things in and this kid has a chance to pitch at the higher levels."
Another challenge has been using his frame to his advantage and staying taller – giving himself maximum extension and leverage so it appears that he is closer to the plate than he actually is to the batter. It will also give the ball a downward appearance and hitters will have a harder time picking it up.
"I think Steve did a pretty good job," Bradley added. "He knows what he has to do and now he has to just do it more on a consistent basis. When he was in the zone and down he was very good for us. Of course, he walked a few people here and there. He will get it. He will figure it out."
He is a fly ball pitcher and his biggest downfall to right-handed hitters is not attacking the inside part of the plate – he left more than a few out over the dish and eight left the yard.
By contrast, he used his slider to come into southpaws and did not allow a homer and just eight extra base hits in 216 at bats. Righties, however, tagged 32 extra base hits in 317 at bats.
Delabar also used his fastball in to lefties, preventing them from getting much extension. The right-hander worked hard on using the same approach to righties this coming year.
His fastball sits in the low-90s and he shelved the curveball when he first came into the system in favor of the slider but still has a 12-to-6 he can throw on occasion. He also sports a changeup, which he has developed confidence in.
His stamina and mental stability faltered down the stretch in 2006 – something he wants to change moving forward; Delabar had never pitched more than 100 innings in his career and doubled his output from the previous year with 145 innings tucked under his belt.
To that end, Delabar worked hard this off-season – putting and keeping on weight, getting stronger, and increasing his stamina to handle the full season. If he can limit the walks and maintain his weight over the season his progression will continue.
Delabar is also a leader in the clubhouse and is not afraid to share his wisdom with his fellow pitchers. He spent the off-season working with Nathan Staggs and John Madden, imparting some of his knowledge.
"Stevie, in particular, is a guy, especially since we roomed together on the road, we talked a lot about mechanics and delivery," Staggs admitted. "We just talked pitching quite a bit. Stevie mentioned quite a few things that just struck a chord with me. We talked a lot shagging ball and he showed me certain things that hit home with me. I value his opinion and I trust what he said and his delivery was cleaner than mine and he could show me a thing or two."
ETA: Delabar heads to the California League this year with an eye on keeping the ball down and eliminating his high walks totals. Should he accomplish the task his future will be clearer and the reward will be continued advancement.