Chris Hayes is one of my favorite pitchers in the Royals system. He earned that spot before I knew he was a total nerd, before he wrote the legendary Matt Wieters “interview,” before I knew that he had anything going for him outside of his very good numbers and fun sidearm delivery. Then all those things came to light, and I fan-love Hayes all the more for them.
It was exciting to see this interview with him at mlb.com today, so I decided to publicly gush about him. What could possibly go wrong?
Things I enjoy about Chris Hayes:
1. Control – In Hayes’ pro career, he has never walked more than 2.13 per 9 innings. The last two seasons, he was walked fewer than 2 per 9. For a little perspective on that, only 14 Major League pitchers walked that few batters in 2008. Obviously I’m not saying Hayes could do the same thing in the Majors right now, but it’s an encouraging number. He doesn’t strike many out – and in fact, his K/9 went down in his first full season at AA – but keeping the walks down goes a LONG way in a pitcher’s career.
2. Wit – Not too many ballplayers publicly display any kind of wit. I suppose it’s easier to simply spew out the Official Player Cliches and leave it at that. (The scene in Bull Durham where Crash instructs Nuke to only say things like “I’m just taking it one day at a time,” or “I just want to do whatever I can to help the team”….that is frighteningly accurate.) If a player lets on that he’s interesting, clever, or willing to say anything out-of-the-ordinary, reporters will want more. If a player only says the vague, slightly phony cliches, reporters have no choice but to leave them alone because prolonging their interviews will yield nothing.
So anytime an athlete shows he has a personality, I take interest. It’s not common to get to really learn anything about athletes that means anything, but Hayes seems willing to share his actual personality.
3. Nerdiness – He has a computer science degree! Brains in baseball always intrigues me.
4. Non-sleaziness – This is the cheesy sentimentalist in me, but I just like it when ballplayers show some level of dedication to the women in their lives. In the mlb.com interview today, Hayes lists his marriage as one of the things of which he’s most proud. I’ve learned that it’s easy for professional baseball players to act like they are single, even if they’re married. Many act like their wives do not even exist, so as to not harm their chances with the ladies at bars on the road. Sigh.
5. Delivery – Hayes throws sidearm, which is always fun to watch.
6. Beginnings – Hayes was not drafted, then threw at a Royals open tryout pretty much on a whim (emphasis mine):
“He caught the eye of a few scouts who invited him to come to Arizona that winter for their invitation-only tryouts.
He didn’t make the initial cut at his first tryout, but while leaving
the stadium, another player asked if he’d be attending the Royals’ open
tryout later that week. Hayes hadn’t heard anything about it but
figured as long as he was in town, why not?
Out of just under 100 prospective players, Hayes was one of four
invited to stick around and let the team get a second look at him. And
the next day he received a call asking him to sign with the team.”
So I guess Hayes is sort of a diamond in the rough, which is awesome because it makes me think of Aladdin. And that is just an excellent movie. (Total tangent here: I just watched Aladdin a few days ago. It is not a Piximovie – it held up really well over time, and I might actually like and appreciate it more now than I did when I was little. The sight gags are ingenius, and some of the quick banter is so witty, it flew waaaay over my head when I first saw it but it strikes me as hilarious now. Just a solid animated feature all around.)
7. Omaha – It’s extremely likely that Hayes will spend next season in Omaha, which I obviously like because it’s where I’m spending next season too. I have no reason to believe he’ll spend much – if any – more time in NW Arkansas, because his numbers there were very good last year, which was his first season at that level. Other than a drop in strikeout rate, which isn’t a huge part of his game anyway, he made the transition to the higher level extremely well.
I’m looking forward to finally getting to watch Hayes pitch this season. This ought to be an interesting season for Omaha, with the anticipated arrivals of Daniel Cortes, as well as Hayes and a few others, plus risidual questions like whether Carlos Rosa will be a starter or a reliever (likely the latter, which is too bad for people who love watching him pitch).
In sum: Is it April yet? Please?