Seven Yordano Ventura moments we'll never forget
The Royals' 25-year-old right-hander passed away on Sunday in the Dominican Republic
Yordano Ventura, the Royals' 25-year-old right-hander, died Sunday in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Ventura's tragic and untimely passing of course shocked and shook the baseball world.
For Royals fans and indeed all baseball fans the way forward from such a loss is halting and uncertain. Royals GM Dayton Moore, though, provided a familiar roadmap:
Royals general manager Dayton Moore on the death of Yordano Ventura: "... right now is a time to mourn and celebrate the life of Yordano."— Rustin Dodd (@rustindodd) January 22, 2017
We continue to mourn the loss of Ventura -- we'll always mourn it. Now, though, let's follow Mr. Moore's advice and celebrate that same life for a moment. What comes to mind when you survey his short and notable life through the prism of baseball? Many things, of course. These may be among them ...
1. His second big-league start
Ventura made his major-league debut against the Indians on Sept. 17, 2013 at the age of 22 years and 106 days. He was quite effective at home during that start, as he allowed only one run in 5 2/3 innings of work. However, it was six days later in Seattle that he more boldly tantalized us ...
Over those 5 2/3 innings against the Mariners he struck out six and walked three. On that night, he was what he'd always be, as he pumped his fastball and cutter at the target more than 80 percent of the time -- dominant at times, raw at others. Some eight years after he quit school to work construction as a means to help support his mother, Ventura showed us what he'd do for the next three seasons.
2. His World Series gem in honor of Oscar Taveras
It's a grim bit of symmetry, of remorseless coincidence. Ventura took the ball for Game 6 of the 2014 World Series with his Royal down 3-2 to the Giants. To add to those pressures, Ventura's countryman, Oscar Taveras of the Cardinals, had died tragically just days prior in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. With the Royals' hopes on the line, Ventura used his hat to pay tribute to Taveras ...
And then he summoned up and harnessed those pitching skills ...
After the game, Ventura spoke about the decision he made -- to honor Taveras with his start -- the moment he learned of the gifted young outfielder's passing:
"If he was still here, I for sure would be talking to him. Oscar would be very happy for me and very proud."
As for that hat ...
3.His softball game
Ventura and the Royals of course went on to lose the the 2014 World Series in seven games. Even in the throes of disappointment, though, Ventura's sense of play was undimmed. That was very much evident on a Kansas City softball field the night after the Giants won the deciding game ...
What you see above wasn't an arranged appearance, and no one, save for Ventura, knew it was going to happen. Anyone who was at that softball game won't soon forget it. Even if you weren't there, you won't forget it.
4. His hustle against the Mets
The Royals of course returned to the World Series in 2015 and this time prevailed over the Mets. Ventura didn't pitch well that postseason, and accordingly he got cuffed around in his Game 3 start against Noah Syndergaard and the Mets. However, even within those struggles, Ventura's devotion to effort was on full display, on the mound and at the plate ...
Rare is the pitcher -- especially the AL pitcher, so unaccustomed to wielding a bat -- who displays that kind of damn-the-torpedoes hustle down the line, especially on a sac bunt. With Ventura, the stuff and results were sometimes lacking, but the will never was.
5. That complicated fastball
Rare is the pitcher who can dial it up like Ventura. Rarer still is the starting pitcher who can conjure up his radar readings. In an early April start against the Rays, Ventura registered in excess of 102 mph on one pitch -- one of the fastest pitches by a starter ever recorded. And keep in mind that velocities tend to be down significantly early in the season. Among starters, just Syndergaard and Nathan Eovaldi have average fastballs that top Ventura's mark (in excess of 97 mph). On that point ...
|Pitcher||Listed height||Listed weight|
|Eovaldi||6 feet, 2 inches||225 pounds|
|Syndergaard||6 feet, 6 inches||240 pounds|
|Ventura||6 feet, 0 inches||195 pounds|
Let it be said that Ventura's listed weight is almost certainly on the generous side. He's somewhat wiry, and he's certainly small of stature by the standards of major-league right-handed starters. That general idea led to this scribe to make the following observation on Twitter ...
One thing I love about baseball and Yordano (and Gooden and Pedro, among others), skinny guy like that could throw a fastball like that.— Dayn Perry (@daynperry) January 23, 2017
It's baseball, you know. Lumbering, barrel-bellied sorts who'd normally be resigned to, I dunno, lumberjack meets (or softball games attended by Yordano Ventura) can carve out a life and a fortune hitting the baseball, and willowy sorts you'd see on any sidewalk can make those baseballs fly out of their fingers as though shot from a naval cannon.
Still and yet, it takes more than that defiance of physicality to extinguish the best hitters in the world. Ventura relied on that crackling fastball too much, and because he wasn't a deep strider toward the plate, his four-seamer to the hitter lacked some "perceived velocity." Baseball is a cauldron of adjustments, and for those and probably other reasons, those best hitters in the world adjusted ...
Yordano Ventura's fastball is broken and it makes me sad. pic.twitter.com/VgA2Ft8lBw— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) August 1, 2016
Those are opponents' slugging percentages against Ventura's fastball, and as you can see opposing hitters started sitting on it and punishing it. Ventura was still young, though, and he was still learning -- even old and deeply tenured pitchers are still learning. He had a changeup, a sinker, and, of course, that drop-off-the-table curve ...
Yordano Ventura, curve (grip/release). pic.twitter.com/fHZxWEUPr2— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 9, 2016
Just as surely as his opponents adjusted, Ventura, enamored as he was by his fastball, would've adjusted and mixed in those other weapons more effectively.
Of course, that fastball was also an occasional weapon, an implement of fright ...
His willingness to use the purpose pitch doesn't distinguish him from other pitchers with big fastballs, but it's surely part of what we'll remember about him. The guess here is that he'd be OK with that.
6. His hat, again
The image that follows won't require many words. Here's Ventura's hat during what would lamentably turn out to be the final start of his major-league career ...
Taveras died in a car accident on Oct. 26, 2014. Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident on Sept. 25, 2016. Ventura, of course, died on Sunday.
The three were teammates in the 2012 Futures Game:
7. His start on Aug. 6, 2014
Ventura on that date beat the Diamondbacks, as he allowed two runs in 6.0 innings while striking out eight and walking one. Also, take note, via Baseball-Reference, of the Diamondbacks' lineup for that game ...
This is one of things we didn't know and now that we do know, would rather not remember. But it's another bit of that aforementioned remorseless coincidence. Andy Marte pinch-hit in this game, this game started by Ventura, and struck out against Royals closer Greg Holland in the ninth. This was Marte's final maj0r-league game. Marte, of course, also died on Sunday in a car accident, about 55 miles from where Ventura lost his life.
Our deepest condolences to the family, friends, teammates, and fans of Andy Marte and Yordano Ventura.
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