The Port Arthur News
To understand Nederland right-hander Brett Brown’s fantastic strikeout season, you have to understand his pitches.
His favorite of the bunch is his curveball. That one leaves his hand high in the zone before dropping all the way to the bottom and almost straight down. It’s what they call a 12-6 curve, because it seems to drop from the 12 on a clock down to the six in a straight line.
There’s bend to the pitch as with any curve, but when Brown throws it inside to a hitter, it really can buckle some knees. At least, that’s what happened against Port Neches-Groves earlier this season, when Brown threw one on the inside part of the plate and the batter reacted like it was going to hit him.
It didn’t, but it did drop over the inside part of the plate for strike three.
“I like to throw my deuce,” Brown said. “When it comes down to it, I like to throw my (curve). Sometimes, I don’t care if they know it’s coming. I’ll throw it.”
His other breaking pitch is one that’s relatively new to his arsenal, a slider. While the curve usually comes in slower with more exaggerated break, the typical slider is a tight, fast pitch that comes in looking like a fastball until it dives down away from right-handers.
“His slider kind of simulates the velocity of the fastball a little bit,” Nederland head coach Cody Robbins said. “It has some late break to it, so it’s been pretty effective this year. He’s thrown it well for strikes and he’s gotten a lot of people out with it. It’s just added something to his arsenal. The slider has given him a chance to have a little more success this year.”
Brown’s slider may be his best pitch, as the deception of that late break can be brutal on hitters. Since the pitch looks similar to that fastball coming out of his hand, a hitter may not be able to pick it up until it breaks. By then, it may be too late to react.
In his first varsity start last season in Game 2 of the bidistrict series against Barbers Hill, Brown used that slider very effectively on his way to 17 strikeouts and a complete game victory.
However, as good as those two pitches are, it’d be a mistake to ignore Brown’s four-seam fastball. The pitch has good velocity, good movement and Brown controls it well. That means he can change up his timing on pitches, throwing the fastball low and away when a batter might expect the slider.
“The biggest thing with Brett is to eliminate his walks,” Robbins said. “He hasn’t walked a whole lot of people (this year). You never ask a pitcher to go out and strike out the whole team. With a strikeout pitcher, he’s going to throw a lot of pitches and a lot out of the zone. He’s still throwing a lot of strikes, and more than a lot of strikeout pitchers would.
“The good thing about Brett is when he makes a mistake and does walk someone, he’s got the opportunity to pitch his way out by getting a strikeout. If he spots his pitches, he’s as good as any pitcher I’ve been around.”
Oh, and just for good measure, Brown also has a two-seam fastball with more “cut” to it than his four-seamer. That means the ball will run in on the hands of a right-hander as it gets closer to the plate. Brown says he’s confident in all four pitches and will throw them in pretty much any situation, if it helps his team.
“The way I see it is I’m not going to throw a pitch I’m not confident in,” Brown said. “That’s how you get beat as a pitcher. Any pitch I throw I’m going to be confident in, because I don’t want to hang my guys out to dry.”
There are some right-handed pitchers who won’t throw sliders to left-handed batters, since the pitch will often break across the strike zone and give the hitter a better chance at connecting. Brown’s control and the pitch’s break mean that’s not an issue for him. Plus, the 12-6 action on his curve makes it effective against both righties and lefties.
“I don’t think either one has an advantage,” Robbins said. “I think he’s handled lefties as well as righties this year. He keeps the ball down. A slider to the left-handed hitter on the inside part of the plate, there’s not a lot they can do with it, especially with his velocity.”
Brown has 153 strikeouts on the season and has a chance for more when he starts the one-game Class 4A bidistrict playoff series tonight against 19-4A champ Barbers Hill. That’d be the same Eagle team Brown terrorized with his pitching arsenal last season in the playoffs.
“It’s just another ballgame on the schedule, ” Brown said. “Big games, little games, it doesn’t change for me. You just get on the mound and do your best. Last year, I was all fired up to get up there against Barbers Hill. It was good, it was exciting. This year, I just want to get on the mound and buckle down, like I’d do against any team.”
The one-game format and the fact that the game will be held at Nederland certainly breaks in the Bulldogs’ favor. Now, all that needs to come around is the hitting. Robbins, though, is confident his team can get hits when they need to. With Brown on the mound, they may not need that many runs, period.
“They took us to the brink last year,” Robbins said. “Our team vividly remembers last year. I think there’s a little added to this game more than a regular playoff game. There’s a little redemption for them. For us, maybe we prove a point that it wasn’t luck last year. Now, it’s all about playing the game right. We’ve got to swing the bats, play good defense and just play the game.”