DOUG DAVIS, Brewers
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†W-L ¬†¬†¬†ERA ¬†¬†¬†K/9 ¬†¬†¬†BB/9 ¬†¬†¬†HR/9
Pre-2004 28-29 ¬†¬†¬†4.79 ¬†¬†5.40 ¬†¬†¬†3.94 ¬†¬†¬†1.07
2004 ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†10-10 ¬†¬†¬†3.58 ¬†¬† 7.11 ¬†¬† 3.27 ¬†¬†¬†0.68
Davis, who was drafted by the Texas Rangers in 1996 and pitched in the majors for them in parts of five seasons from 1999 to 2003, had been wrapping his arm far behind his body during his windup, then slingshotting the ball from a three-quarters arm slot. Second-year pitching coach Mike Maddux brought the lefty's arm closer to his body and instructed him to throw over the top; that has improved his control and added juice to his fastball, which now touches 90 mph. A cut fastball that Davis runs in on righties--also a Maddux addition--has completed the transformation.
RYAN DRESE, Rangers
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†W-L ¬†¬†ERA ¬†¬† K/9 ¬†¬†¬†BB/9 ¬†¬† HR/9
Pre-2004 13-15 ¬†6.10 ¬†¬†¬†6.22 ¬†¬†¬†4.13 ¬†¬†¬†1.02
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†2004 11-7 ¬†¬†¬†3.65 ¬†¬†¬†3.96 ¬†¬†¬†2.48 ¬†¬† 0.63
In his fourth big league season Drese has blossomed into Texas's ace primarily because of his heavy sinking fastball, a pitch he began experimenting with last winter. In spring training pitching coach Orel Hershiser, a sinkerballer during his own career, had Drese raise his arm slot and take a little off his two-seamer, sacrificing speed for location and movement. Drese, who opened the season at Triple A, has a 2.42-to-1 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio (fifth highest in the majors), and by keeping the ball down, he's cut his homers allowed by almost 40%.
JASON MARQUIS, Cardinals
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†W-L ¬†¬†¬†ERA ¬†¬† K/9 ¬†¬† BB/9 ¬†¬† HR/9
Pre-2004 ¬†¬†14-15 ¬†¬†4.45 ¬†¬† 6.38 ¬†¬†¬†4.04 ¬†¬†¬†1.17
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†2004 ¬†¬†13-4 ¬†¬†¬†¬†3.59 ¬†¬†¬†5.98 ¬†¬†¬†3.04 ¬†¬† 1.14
Like Drese, Marquis is relying more on his sinker: Witness his 2.23-to-1 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio. In four seasons with Atlanta the righthander showed impressive stuff, including a mid-90s four-seamer that the club encouraged him to feature, reserving his sinker for lefthanders, especially with men on base. But as he shuffled from the rotation to the bullpen to the minors, Marquis was never comfortable. Traded to St. Louis last off-season, he found a regular starting role and a pitching coach in Dave Duncan, who urged him to make the sinker his out pitch.
JOE NATHAN, Twins
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Sv.-Opp. ¬† ERA ¬†¬† K/9 ¬† BB/9 ¬†¬† HR/9
Pre-2004 ¬†¬†¬†1-5 ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†4.12 ¬†¬†6.76 ¬† 4.80 ¬†¬†¬†1.22
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†2004 ¬†35-38 ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†1.71 11.02 ¬†¬†3.41 ¬†¬†¬†0.47
Minnesota, which acquired Nathan from the Giants in the off-season, opened the door for the fifth-year righthander by giving him the chance to close. Pitching coach Rick Anderson helped Nathan correct his biggest mechanical flaw--rushing his delivery, which costs him velocity on his fastball. (When he's right, he's in the mid-to-high 90s.) Nathan doesn't feel overworked; he has just one multi-inning save. Fresh and fit, Nathan has his fastball and hard slider at their best and has significantly increased his strikeout rate. --Daniel G. Habib