Michael Schwimer Interview

Lehigh Valley reliever Michael Schwimer gave me an opportunity to ask him several questions which he has graciously answered.  We at Phuture Phillies, thank him for the interview.  As we have documented, Schwimer had an excellent year, first in Reading and then following his mid-year promotion, in Lehigh Valley. After successfully closing games in Reading, Schwimer was used along with Mike Stutes as the primary set up men for Scott Mathieson in Lehigh Valley.  Schwimer, who will be 25 entering Spring Training, was the Phillies 14th round draft pick out of the University of Virginia in the 2008 draft. In 2010 he was a combined 7-5 with a 2.85 ERA and 11 saves in his 48 appearances between Reading and Lehigh Valley.  Most impressively, he walked an average of just 3.2/9 innings while striking out 11.4/9. Opponents hit just .221 against him in AAA.

Q: Your line this year shows a ton of success, As we have read on Phuture Phillies in the past, you sometimes judge yourself more harshly then maybe the statistics indicate.  Did you meet the goals that you set for yourself this year?

A: “Coming into the season I had one main goal, consistency. This was my main goal because that is what the Phillies front office and staff told me that I needed to achieve if I wanted to become a major league pitcher. I though a lot about what it means to be a consistent pitcher and broke it down into two categories.

First, pitch consistency which I define as having a mental plan of the pitch you are throwing and executing that plan.  This was my best year in terms of pitch consistency.  A big factor in my pitch consistency was taking the radar gun out of consideration.  In previous years, I would try to amp up and throw some pitches as hard as I could, but this year, I took that out of the equation and just worried about executing each pitch by not overthrowing.  Another factor was the consistency of my change-up.  Over the course of the season, I threw 85 change ups, 61 for strikes and gave up one hit (a solo home run) on that pitch.  Consequently, my executing pitches percentage was the best it has ever been. However, I still feel like I can improve in that area.

Second, result consistency, which I define as not giving up multiple runs in any given outing. After watching baseball for 18 years, and studying it for 8 years, I think that multiple run outing percentage is the most important stat for a relief pitcher.  As a relief pitcher, if you throw 1-3 innings and give up 0 or 1 run, you will most likely cement the victory for your team (if your team came in with a lead) or give your team a chance to come back and win the game (if you came in when your team was losing).  On the other hand, if you give up 2 or more runs than you have either given the other team the opportunity to win (if you were originally winning the game) or you have taken your team out of the game (if you came in and were losing). In my 48 games, I gave up multiple runs twice. 46/48 is a good percentage, but still 2 too many in my opinion.”

Q: After the 2009 season we spoke of the transition to High A Ball.  You have now gotten a considerable amount of work at both the AA and AAA levels. How, if at all, has your approach changes as you have moved through the system?

A:”My approach to the game has remained the same. As I have said before on this site, to this point of my career, the level of play has not affected me at all.  If I beat myself up by mis-executing and having bad plans, then I will give up runs. If I have good plans going into at bats and execute those plans, then I will have success”

Q: What is the main aspect of your pitching that you would like to improve in the 2011 season?

A:”For me, the answer is flexibility.  I know that sounds like a weird answer but the fact of the matter is if I can get better flexibility in my shoulders and lower half of my body, then I can release the ball closer to the plate and hide the ball for longer periods of time.  Both of those will help with my perceived velocity, and I will be able to deceive the hitter better. In terms of on the mound stuff, I will leave that up to the Phillies.  As I said, last year they wanted me to work on my consistency, so I did.  I am not sure what they will want me to do this year.”

Q: The Phillies brought in Bruce Sutter to work with the Lehigh Valley relievers late in the season.  Although his early work with Scott Mathieson has gotten the most publicity, were you able to spend some time with Sutter discussing the psychology of a closer?

A: Unfortunately, I was injured the last couple of weeks of the season, so Bruce Sutter never got to see me pitch at full strength.  I did, however, talk to him about pitching philosophy and how to attack different types of hitters.  He has an old school approach to pitching, which I enjoyed thoroughly, because I consider my roots as a pitcher to come from the old school. We both belive in attacking every hitter all the time and not nibbling or pitching around certain hitters.  We don’t believe in situational pitching as much as pitching to your strengths and attacking their weaknesses.  The one difference I have with the old school philosophy is the “get ahead with the fastball” approach.  I like to attack with all three of my pitches at any time and in any count.  Whereas, the old school pitcher will say throw your fastball until they prove they can hit it, and then go to your other stuff.  In my opinion, when they approve they can hit it, it is too late.

Q: How much have you allowed yourself to consider the potential openings in the Phillies bullpen in 2011?  Potentially, there are three of four spots up for grabs (2 or 3 to go to a RHP), when considering the pending free agency of Durbin, Contreras, and Romero and the possibility of David Herndon starting in AAA.  How does that effect your approach in 2011?

A:”It does not affect my approach one bit.  I am going to get myself prepared for spring training in the best way that I know how and compete as hard as I can during spring training, just as I do every year. I do not worry about the roster moves of ree agent signings at all.”

Q: It has been a whirlwind two years for you between the Clearwater, the Arizona Fall League, Reading, and Lehigh Valley. Describe what you expect you off-season routine to be. When will you start throwing again?

A:”My off-season schedule is as follows: September 20th-27, Rest. I do not do anything but sit on the couch and watch TV. No physical activity, and eat very healthy organic foods.  September 21–October 21st, Yoga and core strength 3 days a week, and stretching 2 days when I am not doing yoga.  I am trying to loosen up my body for the strength part of my off-season.  October 22-26, drive down to Austin, Texas with stops in Knoxville for the Alabama–Tennessee game and Dallas, Texas for the Monday night game between the Giants and the Cowboys.  October 27th–December 25th, explosive training in Austin, Texas with Lance Hooten with a brief break at home for Thanksgiving and for Mike Zagurski’s wedding. Lance is supposed to be one of the best baseball trainers in the world. December 25th–January 12th, enjoy time with family and friends, because this will be the last time I see them all together for nine months. Also, during this time, start playing light catch every other day.  January 13th–start of spring training and increase my throwing program to a weekly basis so my arm is 100% ready for the opening day of Spring Training.  I do not care if my pitches are ready, but I do care if my arm strength is.

17 thoughts on “Michael Schwimer Interview

  1. Thanks for the interview Gregg and the in depth answers Schwim. Come back and write articles for us! (You know, in all your spare time) I’m sure I’ll see you out by Ashburn Alley soon.

  2. Nice interview. He makes it easy to root for him. Sounds like he’s a “thinking” pitcher. I like that.

  3. To me the most interesting thing is not making a lot of money, he will be working out and traveling this winter, must be hard with little the phillies paid him.

  4. Maybe he’s getting appearance fees, or this site paid him for the interview? Or likely, he’s like most people who find a way to make it happen – especially if there is the likelihood that he could be making +/- 300,ooo annually in the next year or so.

    What I wonder is do a lot of pitchers takes Schwimer’s mental approach, or are we just getting him to share an insight that is fairly common?

    And BTW, I’ve never heard of the “multiple run” stat, and I love it – that is a good measurement of a reliever’s success. There should be some way to couple that, along with Runners Stranded, to create a metric to rate a middle reliever. I’ve always thought that the Hold is a pretty useless stat, and ERA for a reliever is not an accurate indicator of their effectiveness.

    – Jeff

  5. I think an opposing batters’ line (BA/OBP/SLG) is ideal for evaluating relievers. Unfortunately those statistics are hard to track at a minor league level.

  6. Although I have no idea what Michael’s family situation is, my suspicion is that he is living with and through his family much like a graduate student would. He’s on his own for most of the year but is occasionally with family where he likely has a place to stay and a hot meal to share with family. If you have a basic way to scratch out a living and pay your ongoing expenses, you have no dependents, and family is willing to welcome you when you are back, it really is not that big of a deal.

    Having read his entries and followed his career, it appears to me that Schim is, at worst, probably headed for a career that is much like Chad Durbin’s (solid and viable – a stalwart in a big league bullpen) and, at best, a career that looks something like Ryan Franklin’s (a guy who figured things out in a big way and became a closer). Of course, if something happens and he adds a few MPH to his FB or comes up with a killer “out” pitch, we’ll have to throw those predictions out the window. If I were Schwim, I’d listen to Bruce Sutter because he knows what he’s talking about, but I would also carefully study the careers of split-fingered fastball pitchers. I have not done a statistical study, but almost all of those guys have had shoulder problems at one point or another, many devastating. If I thought I could stick in the big leagues without that pitch, I’d avoid it. For others (Drew Carpenter and Scott Mathieson come to mind), it might be the thing that puts them over the top. But there’s a real reason that pitch is no longer in vogue – it kills arms. Period.

  7. Just to make one point clear…this site paid Michael Schwimer nothing for this interview. A request for an interview was made, which he graciously accepted.

  8. I can’t access the “e-mail your questions to phuture phillies.com” section.
    also : I can only access a few of the top Prospects’ Profiles. Is the Profiles section a “work in progress”? Hopefully when you complete this section you will furnish a Photo of each player along with their Profile.
    Please consider that many of us don’t have state of the art computers. Please make all features easy to access and the endeavor to make the whole website easily Navigable.

  9. Thanks Gregg and Mike. I’m sorry but I don’t believe that Mike’s not thinking about the possibility of making the majors. I understand that he can’t say it but he to be thinking about it. I have to assume that the Phils will invite Schwim, Matheson, and Stutes to big league camp and maybe even DeFratus although I doubt it. Schwim probably won’t make the team out of ST but a strong ST coupled with a good start at AAA will certainly give him a chance to make an appearance in Philly after an injury. We’ll all be looking for you Mike! Good luck!

  10. Sooner or later the team has to start using prospects if only for cost control. According to the radio, the Comcast deal has 6 years to run . So to have a good position they must maintain winning at least four or five years.

  11. Catch…the notion that split-fingered pitchers are more injury prone is a farce. It has been disproven any number of times. Yes, Sutter got hurt throwing the pitch. But look at his innings pitched numbers/appearances and the way he was used during his career as a reliever. I would say that was the reason he was hurt, not the pitch he was throwing.

    I will grant that not anybody can just throw the splitter and not risk injury. It does require longer than normal fingers as well as a large amount of flexibility in that area to throw without injury risk. But, as somebody said in another thread, any pitch thrown incorrectly can cause injury. When thrown correctly, there is no more risk of injury to a pitcher than there would be otherwise.

  12. GregA – I hope you’re right – I cannot say that I’ve done a statistical study of this. All I know is that every guy I can recall who threw a splitter ended up having shoulder surgery within a matter of years and I certainly am apprehensive about having our top pitchers rely on that pitch as opposed to an assortment of other pitches, particularly with the advent of the cut fastball (I don’t recall anyone throwing that pitch until like 10 or 12 years ago – maybe they called it something else) and the improvement in techniques for throwing a change-up. But for a guy like Drew Carpenter or Scott Mathieson, it could be something of a magic bullett.

  13. Does contreras throw a split finger fastball? He hasn’t had arm surgery, at least none I’ve heard of in the last couple of years.

  14. Mike, it is always great to hear from you. I certainly like your approach and hope many of your teammates have a similar one. Wish you continued success.

    I believe Contrares actually throws a forkball. No thumb holding the ball, just between the fingers.

    I think Mike response to the ‘majors’ question says his approach has not changed. He did not specifically address the possibility. Really all he can do is continue to pitch great. He does not have the authority to promote himself. It does not appear that he needs to learn a new pitch or prepare for a different role (he is not converting to a starter), so there is not much he needs to do differently in preparation for the Majors.

    I do not think “OPS against” is the best stat for a reliever but it certainly is useful for any pitcher. Efficiency is less important for relievers since pitch counts are not considered as important. Outs and runs are really what matters. Relief pitching is incredibly situational and has super small sample sizes. Getting an inning ending double play may be better than allowing a sac fly and strikeout.
    I have no idea what stats would be most important but I’d like to see a weighted average of inherited runners scored in high leverage situations. (Runner on third stranded counts more than a runner at first stranded.)

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