Monday, May 15, 2017

Getting to Know Astros/Hooks RHP Dean Deetz

Corpus Christi Hooks RHP Dean Deetz is a rare breed, a starting pitcher who conveys just the right amount of cockiness without taking himself too seriously. Perhaps being humbled in his first professional season after being drafted in the 11th round in 2014 out of Northeast Oklahoma A&M College played a factor, but I suspect that his ability to laugh at himself comes naturally.

Dean Deetz - April 2017
Photo by Jayne Hansen

In that first professional season, Deetz compiled an 8.88 ERA and a 1.934 WHIP in 25.1 innings, walking 6.8 batters per nine innings. Fast forward to 2017 and Deetz has a 1.30 ERA and a 0.867 WHIP through his first 27.2 innings of work and has reduced his walk rate to 2.6 batters per nine innings. In his last outing, Deetz allowed two earned runs, equaling his total for the prior five appearances combined.

When I talked to Deetz recently, I asked him about his season to date, what he's working on and his journey to this point in his career. When asked what's going well for him this season, Deetz said, "I'm just throwing strikes and just throwing good pitches through the zone, making them swing the bat. And my stuff's good enough that I can attack hitters and they're not going to hit the ball hard. They're just going to put the ball in play and I'll get some outs."

Deetz continued, "My slider's working the best for me and probably my fastball. I started using my changeup a lot the last game. I'm probably going to use it more throughout the season now so hopefully that will be better for me."

Hooks Pitching Coach Dave Borkowski agreed, "He's pounding the zone and he seems a little bit more under control. A lot more competitive sliders ... they are more strikes out of his hand, disappearing at the plate, making it a little bit more effective pitch."

Deetz can throw the heat, but he understands that he has to tread a fine line between velocity and control, "The hardest I've thrown so far this year is 97 (he sits 93 to 95). I feel like I throw more strikes when I'm not trying to throw hard, but I also feel like I throw less strikes when I'm aiming and (consciously) not trying to throw hard. I've got to find a little happy medium or I'm wild both ways."

When he first started pitching, he told me, "I thought I could come in and just throw as hard as I can right past everyone and it would be fine and that's not how it worked. That's what I did in junior college and it worked out great. It didn't work out good here (in the pros). Everyone hits a fastball."

As far as what Deetz is working on, he said, "Pitching, like knowing what counts I want to throw certain stuff against certain hitters and I still need to work on being able to throw my fastball at different heights to make my other pitches look like they're fastballs for longer. Recently we've been working on it. It's getting better, but to pitch in the big leagues, I'm going to need to figure that out a little more."

One of the challenges that Deetz and many others in the Astros system have had to face was pitching in the decidedly hitter-friendly and pitcher-punishing confines of The Hangar at the Astros former High A affiliate in Lancaster, California. Of that time, Deetz said, "That was awful. I hated baseball then. That was so bad. Everyone wanted to pitch at away games. No one wanted to pitch at home. That place was so bad." Does he resent that other Astros pitchers coming up through the system won't have to survive The Hangar? "I tell them. You guys are so lucky that you don't have to go to Lancaster and they're like, 'Dude this place (Corpus Christi) is so bad.' (I tell them), 'No, Lancaster was way worse to play.' You throw one ball. It gets touched in the air and goes out of the park," said Deetz.

Which of his Hooks teammates stand out for him? Deetz responded, "I would say Ramon (Laureano), but I've been playing with Ramon for so long that when he does crazy stuff, it's just normal for me. Let's say J.D. (Davis). I love him. He's cool. He's a cool guy. He's quiet, but when we're playing he's very talkative. He's a good team guy. I consider him kind of a leader on the team. It's just crazy to watch him do what he can do."

What has he learned that he wishes he had known when he was drafted? "It doesn't matter how hard you throw. It just matters if you throw strikes. If I had known that in junior college, it probably would have been a lot better. I probably wouldn't have walked a hundred million people. Now that I've figured it out, it makes pitching a lot easier."

I was going to leave the interview there, but this picture prompted me to ask one last question ...

I asked Deetz if he realized that his hair style had started to resemble a porcupine. I wasn't sure that he'd appreciate my comparison, but he surprised me, "That's the best part! I'm growing this thing out forever. I like looking goofy. People are like, 'What is this dude doing?' I don't know. I'm just doing something. I don't care about it," Deetz laughed.

Thank you for your time, Dean, and you keep doing you!

Other Recent Interviews:
RHP Akeem Bostick
LHP Mike Freeman
3B J.D. Davis
OF Drew Ferguson

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