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    Tuesday, July 31, 2012

    Cape Cod League Profile: John Simms, RHP

    The Falmouth Commodores continued their four game win streak on Monday evening with a 6-1 win at home over the Harwich Mariners. Drew Dosch homered, singled, and drove in three. The bullpen pitched three 1-2-3 innings with three strikeouts. But, for the second night in a row, the starting pitcher was the star of the game.

    Sunday night saw starter Sean Hagan pitch a complete game shut out that was also a no-hitter until the ninth inning. Monday night, right hander John Simms was similarly dominant. Simms, who was the Commodore’s closer until recently, delivered solid six innings. The first batter of the game singled, advanced on two passed balls, then scored on a second single.

    And that was it for the night. That was the entirety of the Harwich Mariners’ offensive output. Yes, these Harwich Mariners. But just calling it six, one-run (unearned) innings would be a disservice.

    Following that second single, Simms retired the next eleven batters, starting with two straight strikeouts (meaning he also struck out the side). That was sort of a theme for Simms. In those six innings, he struck out an amazing 11 batters, while only allowing five runners (two hits, two walks, and a hit batter). A WHIP under 1.000, a K/9 just south of 18.00...those still look like closer numbers.

    It also represented Simms’ second quality start since becoming a starter. In those two outings, he’s thrown 13 innings, allowed 3 earned runs (a 2.08 ERA, to go with his 3.32 overall ERA), 7 hits, 2 walks, and struck out 19 batters. This is looking like a brilliant move on the Commodores’ part-with Hagan, Craig Schlitter, and All-Star Trey Masek, the team has to have one of the best rotations in the league.

    One of the things that’s really interesting was the strikeouts-not only did he get 11 of them on the night, but in 96 pitches and 61 total strikes, Simms also generated 23 swinging strikes. Swinging strikes are a special form of dominance-there’s a reason sites like Fangraphs track things like swinging strike percentage. Throwing strikes in general is good, but swinging strikes are extra good. A swinging strike means a player tried their hardest to hit a pitch and were just overpowered or totally fooled. There’s no gray area like with called strikes-the batter was just totally blown away or baffled. And Simms did that with over a third of his strikes, and almost a quarter of his overall pitches. That’s pretty incredible.

    John Simms just finished his sophomore season at Rice, where he has similarly functioned as both a starter and a reliever (he says he doesn’t have a preference for one over the other). In his time there, he’s pitched 125.2 innings across 48 games (13 starts) and carried a 2.94 ERA to go with a 122/40 K/BB ratio. He choose to attend (for their strong combination of academic and baseball programs) after graduating from College Park High School in Houston in 2010*. Following his graduation, he was drafted in the 39th round by the Nationals.

    *Simms would have served as the team’s ace the year that Jameson Taillon graduated from their rival school, The Woodlands. As someone who got to watch Taillon a little bit, I now wish I had seen a match up of the two at the time.
    Simms, a two-year veteran of the Cape League, has enjoyed the experience, and praised the league’s difficulty, saying that “there’re no easy outs”. He throws three pitches-a fastball, a slider, and a split-finger fastball, any of which can serve as an out pitch when they’re working. Additionally, he said that the league’s use of wood bats is not a large change from facing aluminum bats in college, given the NCAA’s switch to less lively bats.

    With only seven games left in the regular season and a newly-fortified rotation, the Commodores look to make a run deep into the postseason, with Simms helping lead the way.

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