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Canadians Double Dip

This was a good weekend. And no, not because my wife and kids were out of town, saying that would just be mean. The highlights of the weekend included some B.C. Day fireworks and cheap A&W root beer floats. The main event, however, was a pair of home debuts from home grown pitchers. Both Tom Robson and Shane Dawson made their first appearance at the Nat after their recent call ups from Bluefield.

I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that these two remain in Vancouver for the rest of the season, so will have at least three more opportunities to see them, but here are my first impressions.

Saturday night saw Ladner native and current homebody Tom Robson taking the bump in front of one hundred and thirty odd family and friends. Unless they are hyper-critical, they should have gone home happy. That being said, things didn’t start off so well. Hillsboro right-fielder Brian Billigen fouled off four tough pitches before roping a double to right. A wild pitch saw Billigen to third. That was followed by a walk to Justin Bianco. A double play scored the run but minimized the damage and seemingly calmed the nerves.

He only gave up three more hits after that, all singles, including one bloop. Nothing was hit that hard. I had his fastball sitting about 91/92 miles per hour. He did dial it up to the mid 90s occasionally. What impressed me the most was his fastball command. He rarely missed his spots, and if did, it was generally down and in.

His change up was in the low to mid 80s and has some nice sink. He uses a circle grip so it tails in to right handers. It was during the third inning that he started to really use it, making Bianco, a left-handed hitter look silly on three straight that tailed down and away from him, eventually getting him swinging.

I didn’t notice any discernible change in his arm action between fastball and change, but may leave that to the experts.

His curve had good dept. It’s a slow curve of the 12/6 variety. He throws it in the mid 70s so is really just a change a pace to keep hitters off balance. He started to leave it up in the later innings.

His arm action is smooth and easy. He has a cross fire release but it seems repeatable. I spoke to him about the weighted ball program he is on and like Jeremy Gabyrszwski he mainly focused on how loose it kept him. The velocity hasn’t ticked up per se, but he said he has shown the ability to maintain his strength through his entire pitch count.

That was on display as he struck out swinging two of his last four hitters, both on 92 mph fastballs, when he was within ten of his eighty pitch count.

The early knock on Robson was his low strikeout rates, but if you throw out his first two starts in Bluefield he’s now sitting at just over eight k’s per nine innings pitched. He has only walked four in that same time frame, good for a 6.5 K/BB ratio.

That is good.

Sunday saw the northnern-most affiliated pro ball player take the mound in Drayton Valley’s Shane Dawson. At 6’1″ 180 pounds, Dawson doesn’t have the physical gifts of Robson, but after his performance I’m not sure that matters. Let’s start with his line:

5 4 0 0 0 9 0 0

Breaking that down a bit further. The four hits were all singles, with two over infielders heads, one between the five/six hole, and a broken bat blooper. Nothing was hit particularly hard.

Of his nine (9!!) strike outs seven were swinging and five of those were on his fastball. Considering his fastball sits at about 90 mph, that is very good. Dawson is not afraid to challenge with his heater. The bulk of those swing and misses were when he elevated his pitches. He’s not afraid to throw it inside either, and seemingly had no trouble spotting his pitches.

Speaking to him after the game, he has never seen himself as a power pitcher, but he’s not afraid to use his fastball. His changeup, which showed excellent tail away from his arm slot, is only used to disrupt the timing of the hitters so he can attack with the one.

Of the remaining strike outs, my notes have two on the change up and one on a big looping curve that he introduced in his last inning. Kinda like, ‘well, I know this is it, why not show them something new’. It has a big bend, and with Dawson’s deceptive release, must be very difficult to pick up.

The only negative side of the ledger were the first two hits, both on sliders that didn’t really do much. He shelved it after the second one, it definitely needs a bit of refinement.

As I mentioned above, the left-hander has a very deceptive release point which obviously throws hitters off. I couldn’t figure out why the Hops hitters were so late on upper 80s fastballs until I specifically focused on where the ball was coming from. He hides it very well. Hillsboro’s swing were long, and generally late.

Dawson has now struck out fifteen in the nine Northwest League innings he’s pitched. That’s ahead of his 11.5 K/9 Appalachian league record but proves it’s no fluke. He has the ability to miss bats.

I’m going to deviate from my norm in that I won’t yet speculate on the future of these two. Let’s just enjoy them at the Nat while we have the opportunity as both are destined for Lansing in 2014….doh.

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