Blake Parker Reminds Us That We Know Nothing

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 07: Blake Parker
ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 07: Blake Parker /

Since the beginning of May, Blake Parker has served everyone a useful reminder that nobody knows anything.

Entering the 2018 season as the LA Angels’ anointed closer, Parker gave up a run and three baserunners on Opening Day, and it was all downhill from there. By the time he finished blowing a game to the Yankees on April 27, he had lost as many games as he’d saved (1). In the 13 games he appeared in up to that point, he had allowed 20 baserunners in just 13 innings and earned himself a hefty 4.85 ERA, with opponents hitting .288/.351/.519.

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He lost his closer role and, like so many of his bullpen cohorts, had become completely undependable to his manager. Beyond that, it had the unfortunate consequence of sending the Halosphere chattering about all the things that must be wrong with him. Was it his health? Was last year a fluke? Did he not have the “intestinal fortitude” (read: balls) to close ballgames? Did Mike Scioscia totally mishandle him?

Since the calendar flipped to May, however, Parker’s been a totally different pitcher. In his last 17.1 innings over 15 games, he’s allowed just 10 hits while striking out 22, good for a 1.17 ERA. In nine of his 16 games, no one’s even gotten a hit, and opponents are barely touching his stuff when they do, hitting just .200/.224/.255 against him. He’s reclaimed the closer spot.

So, what’s different? What’s Parker doing different?

Well, not much. He’s throwing his three pitches — 4-seam fastball around 60% percent of the time, his splitter about 30% of the time, and mixes in an occasional curve — with about the same frequency. His velocity hasn’t changed much; if anything, all three pitches are a few fractions slower in May than in April. He’s starting counts with fastballs much more frequently, but only against right-handers, and he’s not throwing them for more strikes than before. His walk rate is about the same, five in 13.1 innings before May, five in 15.1 innings after May. He was the same pitcher in May that he was in April. Moreover, he’s sequencing almost identically from his breakout 2017 season.

Ultimately, the only thing you can say about Blake Parker is that he had a rough April, and it bummed him out. All the smart guys on the Internet, on the radio, on television talk shows, and elsewhere can say what they want, but the only thing anyone really knows is that Parker had a bad month. Anyone who claims to know WHY he had a bad month should tell him, because even Parker doesn’t know — literally the only thing he could think of was that he was too comfortable because his roster spot was guaranteed this year. More likely, he had a bad few games, and the frustration built up. As he noted, “having a couple of zeros helps your mentality.” So, he had some bad games and got really frustrated, and now he’s had some good games and he’s back to normal. The rampant idle speculation from the first month of the season is as forgotten as if it had never happened — which means that it probably shouldn’t have happened to begin with.

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Legendary screenwriter William Goldman, the man behind Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Princess Bride, All the President’s Men, and many others, once wrote of the movie business, “Nobody knows anything.” Goldman referenced the penchant of smarty-pants studios to turn down ideas that would be massive blockbusters, “Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work.”

The same goes for baseball, and doubly so for those opining about baseball. (Of course, if that ever stopped anyone, we wouldn’t have ESPN, sports radio, or fan sites like this one.) Blake Parker’s season thus far is a healthy reminder that, especially in this day and age of instant reactions, that most of our reactions are probably dumb. Everyone, settle down, put up some zeroes, and get your mind straight. Do like Blake Parker.