Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fire When Ready (Which is Always)

Of all the wacky/injury-based batting order machinations, Yunel Escobar leadoff delights me to no end. I liked the way Escobar draws the odd walk and he seems to be closer to the 3/4 Win stud the Jays thought they were stealing from the Braves.

One nagging legacy of my time in the baseball dark ages is my personal unease when I see somebody swing at the first pitch. Mostly because I'm become so pro-walk (probably to a fault) and it stands to reason that nobody ever walked on the first pitch.

Thankfully, I'm an idiot. Hitters rake on the first pitch and Yunel is no different. His OPS rises high above 1.000 on first pitches this year and he has 9 first pitch home runs in his career.

The concern, as always, is pitchers taking advantage of this aggression and throwing him junk out of the zone in an attempt to get way ahead. Let's take a look to see if this is the case in 2011.

Other than a few two-seamers/sinkers tailing in on his hands, that is pretty impressive discipline from Escobar. He certainly doesn't expand the zone in an appreciable way.

In terms of the pitch distribution, it breaks down like this:
  1. Fastballs (nearly a fifty/fifty split between two and four seam with a few cutters thrown in)
  2. Curveballs
  3. Sliders
  4. Changeups
The even better news is Escobar takes the first pitch nearly 60% percent of the time. Again, refusing to expand the zone and waiting for a good pitch to hit.

Of his 9 first pitch-hits, he has three on changeups, three on fastballs, and one each on the slider and the curve.

What does this mean? I'm okay with Escobar swinging away on the first pitch. He is a smart enough hitter to wait for a good pitch to whack and whack it he does. If only I could say the same about half the other Punch & Judy's currently populating the lineup.

Pitch f/x data courtesy of Joe Lefkowitz, splits courtesy of Baseball Reference. Getty Image courtesy of Daylife

Sunday, April 24, 2011

An Easter Sunday Resurrection

In some ways, I admire the restraint of John Farrell. He held off an entire 20 games before the irresistible lure of Corey Patteron's Speed at The Top of The Order suckered him in.

Needless to say, the mythical hit and run opportunities with Patterson and Yunel Escobar come after Patterson - who reached base three times in the last 5 games, rocking a healthy .245 on base for the young season - steals first.

As dear friends Rob and Kris said lo those many years ago "we have nothing against him, just don't hit him leadoff." The man has skills, none of which are best suited at the top of the lineup.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Crazy like a Fox

Been a tough year for Overmanagin Joe Maddon
With the Rays coming into town it is important to remember how much smarter Joe Maddon is than you. This loony bastard and his assembled team of eggheads will do just about anything to get an edge.

Unfortunately for Jays fans and pitchers, the madness of the Danks Theory is just crazy enough to work. Brett Cecil and Shaun Marcum were the primary victims in years past, with the Rays sending our more "arm-sided batters" (lefties against Cecil, righties versus Marcum) to neutralize their best weapon (dirty changeups). For very different reasons, neither of those two hurlers are due to face the Rays this weekend, but one potential Jay might be prone to a little lefty on lefty violence.

For his career, Ricky Romero has rather neutral batter splits. Thanks to some ugly home run per fly ball rates as a rookie, his xFIP is about half a run better versus lefties while his FIP is actually better against right handed batters.

Looking at his splits so far this year, one strange number jumped right off the screen: Ricky Romero has faced 42 left-handed batters and walked 6 of them. That's a lot. He's only issued two unintentional free passes to righies in 2011, what gives?

First, let's look at the actual bases on balls in question. Hardly a bunch of stiffs, Romero issued walks to David Ortiz (2), JD Drew, Hideki Matsui, Daric Barton, and Ryan Langerhans. Both Langerhans and Baron draw walks at a near 20% clip in 2011, so no real shame there - patience is the only real offensive tool they possess.

Matsui is a shell but still a cagey vet. Ortiz and Drew are known to struggle against lefties in relative terms but walking them is no great crime. Let's take a look at the strikezone plot in hopes of highlighting the cause.

Not surprising to see so many fastballs, that's kind of what you do when you fall behind. Looking more closely at this tiny sample of at bats, it is clear to see the different ways a pitcher like Romero approaches different hitters.

Middling power guys like Barton and Langerhans saw only fastballs early in the count, even when ahead. While Romero couldn't find the zone against Barton with anything, he had Langerhans 1-2 before missing with a curve, change, and full count changeup (the pitch in the dirt).

Matsui, Oritz and Drew all earned 2-1 changeups thanks to their ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark, something Romero didn't bother with against Daric Barton. Why get cute when the batter doesn't have too much potential to hurt you in a real way? Alas, he walked all the same.

Might attempts at being too fine be the main culprit? Behind in the count but unwilling to give in against power hitters, Romero couldn't get the changeup swing and misses he wants in 2-1 counts results in a rash of a early season walks. Hardly life threatening and unlikely to continue, surely nothing to get too worked up about.

What could this mean against the Rays? Romero throws 10% fewer changeups to left-handed pitchers (just under 20% versus over 30% changes against righties) so Maddon may elect to load the lineup with patient lefties like John Jaso, Matt Joyce, and Sam Fuld (not really patient but fingers crossed!)

Will it work? I don't believe it will. Romero is too good with his two-seamer to continue missing the zone with it, and it serves as a solid compliment and setup pitch for his strong curveball - something Overmanagin' Joe Maddon and his band of thieves must be all too aware of.

Joe Maddon(what? Sure it is) image courtesy of Northern Life. Pitch F/X data courtesy of the Joe Lefkotwitz infohub and virginity restoration centre. The Danks Theory originated by men encompassed by The Process Report.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fun to Watch (Half the Game)

In selling the current iteration of the Toronto Blue Jays, we fans were told over and again how much "fun to watch" this team would be. An exciting brand of baseball was promised, with all manner of hustle, heart, and hyperolic cliches.

While it is true the Jays are exciting to watch, especially if you are partial to guys running around like their hair is on fire or you enjoy the feeling of your stomach and/or bile entering your mouth with each potentially squandered out. But that's only one side of the ball. The other side, the pitching, is a laborious chore.

The Jays starters currently rank last among starting staffs in walk rate, putting on an unsettling 4.35 per 9 via the free pass. As you might assume, they also trail in strikes thrown, meaning not only to they create their own baserunners but fall behind in the count all the time as well.

Taking a quick look at Fangraphs' pace numbers (measuring average time between pitches), you'll find nearly all Jays pitchers rank as below average. Jason Frasor leads the way, as you might imagine, with a whooping 28.5 seconds between his pitches.

It isn't as though the staff is missing as part of some greater organizational philosophy. The pitchers they're trotting out are simply struggling, none more than Brett Cecil.

Reader and frequent commenter Gil Fisher sent me some pitch f/x graphs from Brett Cecil's start last night that he couldn't make any sense of. After looking at the Brooks info and some of my own, I'm just as confused.

It really seems like Cecil is struggling with something — possibly his mechanics — that keeps him from throwing anything with conviction. The same inability to throw his changeup for strikes that plagued him last start continued last night - with a lack of fastball command joining the fun.

If something mechanically prevents him from throwing effectively, we can only hope Papi and friends will fix it straight away. Brandon Morrow might ride in to save the day but Cecil has another 30 starts to make this year, I can't stomach too many more 4 walk, 5 inning performances.

AP image courtesy of Daylife.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Can't Stop the Bum Regression

Baseball ain't fair. If I were ranking the reasons I love it, that brief statement would be both near the top and right at the bottom. It drives us crazy - just when you think you figured it out, well, Litsch happens.

Poor, poor Jesse Litsch pitched very well against the Red Sox on Sunday, especially if you ignore the inning in which he did not (something Litschians love to do.) The 4-run second inning was hardly a true laser show, dismissing it as two bloops and a blast does J.D. Drew a great disservice. He hit a line drive so hard that Jesse Litsch ducked from and shortstop Yunel Escobar jumped for yet the ball still landed some 250 feet from home plate. A rocket.

Despite pitching well, Litsch seemed to exhaust his ability to defy gravity against the Sox. After a game in which he allowed 10 baserunners and stranded them all (a.k.a. not a sound strategy) Litsch went the other way, stranding just 30% of the runners he (and his defense) allowed to reach base.

Poor Litsch (or Nibbles, as I decided to anoint him) also saw his home run per fly ball rate jump from "none" to "some", surrendering his first round tripper of the year. Another shame as Litsch did an amazing job keeping the ball on the ground against the Sox, something I love seeing from him.

Jesse Litsch is just there, in the middle. Some might think him adequate while others simply mediocre. The only real difference between the Jesse Litsch thus far in 2011 and Jesse Litsch for his career is the lack of home runs. Keep doing what you do Jesse, inning eaters gotta eat.

UPDATE: It has become clear to me that I'm unable to write about Jesse Litsch without previously-stated biases (small B) leaking into what I attempt to convey, just as many readers cannot divorce my previous criticism from my praises (however faint) for his recent performance.

Combined in his last two starts; Litsch pitched 11 innings, struck out 9, walked 5, gave up 1 home run and 12 total hits. He allowed 6 total runs, 4 "earned." That's fine.

The walks aren't likely to be that high moving forward but neither are the strikeouts. If they come down in tandem I'm still cool. The ground balls are plentiful1 and that is certainly a good thing.

If that is his (tiny sample-sized)contribution, so be it. 5+ innings a start 25 times this season, I can live with that. I don't hate Jesse Litsch and it surely has nothing to do with "how he looks on the mound", something I've heard before but doesn't even enter my mind when I watch him.

He isn't my favorite pitcher or one I particularly like watching but I promise I'll go easier on him, so long that we can all agree the contributions of a 5th starter on an 80-win team are mighty inconsequential in the end. Deal? Deal.

Sunday Morning Fun Run

You know what was awesome about yesterday's game? The Aaron Hill delayed steal of home. Clever, inventive baseball from a team struggling to score runs. Sure, the old "you play for one run that is exactly what you get" proviso applies, but it is indeed fun to watch.

You know what isn't fun? Listening to Tabby and Buck breathlessly exhort the Jays to run because of all the "pressure it puts on the defense" and how much of an impact it has on pitchers. It drove me crazy enough that I had to be all dickish about it.

Jays Record When:
  • they steal two bases: 3-4
  • they steal one base: 5-6
  • they are caught stealing: 1-4
  • they hit a home run: 6-2.
I would be lying if I said there is any sort of connection between the game outcomes and these cherry picked examples...but let's not go crazy proclaiming this as a revolution which will change baseball forever.

1 - So Sluttered!

Image courtesy of some lego Wiki.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Pains of Being Murph at Heart

Remember back in the halcyon days of the 2009 when Travis Snider was a can't miss 21 year old prospect with exciting power to all fields? I sure do.

A few things have changed since then. Snider is obviously a few years older (yet still very young) and while not quite a prospect, he is still a player with tremendous potential. One thing is conspicuous in its absence from the Travis Snider circa 2011's profile: the opposite field pop.

The image you see above is Travis Snider's season-by-season spray chart (courtesy of the good people at Texas Leaguers) giffed up for comparative goodness. Notice anything different? I know I do: the opposite field tater tots from 2009 are all but missing.

Snider hit 5 home runs to left field in 2009 then none last year. Why might that be? A lack of fastballs to drive the other way or a pull happy team influencing a struggling young hitter?

I miss opposite field home runs. They're great fun, they really are. Both Lind and Snider used to hit them with regularity but now...gone. Not only are they pleasing to the eye, they're a great way to keep pitchers honest.

With Snider struggling and seeing a steady diet of off-speed junk, maybe a policy of staying back on the soft stuff and riding the hard stuff to the opposite field could help him solve his early season woes at the plate. Not that I advocate straying from The Plan at the plate. Heaven forbid.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Strikeouts are Good

I assure you that strikeouts are, in fact, essential. One might link the struggles of a certain lefty back to his complete inability to strike people out.

Poor Brett Cecil notched 3 strikeouts in both his troubled & belabored 5 inning outings this year. He looks very ungood on the mound, grinding his way to 15 outs amid a hail of line drives and befuddled looks.

Why might this be? What is killing Cecil early this season? The lack of velocity certainly doesn't help but allow me to focus on his changeup. The serendipitous pitch that suddenly allowed Cecil to retire right handed batters and keyed his strong 2010.

In a mere two outings, right handed batters are bashing Cecil around pretty good. Not that we should expect a left-hander with less-than electric stuff pitching in his first April to run over glove-sided batters, but the results are not pretty.

As we saw at times last year, when guys like Cecil (and to a lesser extent Ricky Romero) struggle, it tends to be the changeup that lets them down. Either the offspeed offerings get pounded up in the zone or hitters stay patient with pitches off the plate, designed to elicit swings-and-misses. The bi-product of the latter is more fastballs from guys better served going with junk, the former simply results in line drives that don't get caught.

So I looked at what's become of Cecil's changeups this season compared to last and where in the zone he's putting them. These figures are versus right-handed pitching only. Click to enlarge, pitch f/x data courtesy of Joe Lefkowitz.

I'm mildly surprised to see the swinging strikes so similar, even in a tiny 10 inning sample. The only thing that stands out is gains made in the "in play, tears" section. The dreaded "wild in the zone?" Say it ain't so!

That is pretty much what "wild in the zone" looks like. Lots of pitches in hittable places. Too many thigh-high pitches in the middle of the plate. Again, troubling.

It don't mean to suggest Brett Cecil is a lost cause - he certainly is not. His swing-and-miss changeup makes him a viable starter for any team, let alone this rebuilding unit. I don't know if it is confidence or mechanics but if Brett Cecil cannot command this vital pitch, he's back to being a man without a real weapon against right handed pitching.

Picking 10 early season innings to hold up as proof of deep flaws is not my intention: I'm simply looking for what's gone wrong so far. For his and all our sake, let's hope it's something a few minor adjustments can rectify.

A.P. Photo courtesy of Daylife, pitch f/x stuffs from Joe as mentioned.

Knee Deep in the Dead

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"The revamped bullpen looks great, leading MLB with 32 strikeouts compared to just 10 walks (two intentional). Strangely, the most significant contributions have come from holdovers Shawn Camp, Jason Frasor and Marc Rzepczynski." Some genius, ESPN Power Rankings.
Well that was unpleasant! 7 walks is no fun, nor is it anything worth dwelling on. Hoisting blame onto the manager seems easy enough though I can't entirely fault him, Octavio Dotel's ROOGY status notwithstanding. Walking 7 guys — seven SEATTLE FREAKING MARINERS — falls on those futilely hurling the pitches.

With that blame in mind...umm...wow...I knew this wouldn't be easy but..ummm Dave: we need to talk.

Look, Dave, Davey, bubby, you know nobody supports you like I do. I take lumps for you, I kill my credibility for you. I stumped to make you the freaking closer! Unfortunately, the time has come for you to go.

When Brandon Morrow is due to return to the rotation, this team has a difficult decision to make. Considering their ongoing infatuation with a pitcher best described as liquid, Jo-Jo "Loud Outs" Reyes is likely to lose his starter's role. He, like you, is out of options. He, unlike you, walks fewer than 12 guys per 9 innings. Pretty much making you the odd man out.

Perhaps you can go and live with the nice family on the farm. Perhaps another family in the neighbourhood sees the good in you. Me, I'm done. I hope you figure it out one day, that you realize gigantic left-handed dudes who throw 95 don't really need to do much else. Either way Davey, it's been a slice.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Start with Sliding, Move to the Dougie

If the Cali Swag District isn't available, perhaps we can get Davey Lopes, Cali Slide District - Bureau Chief, to swing by the Jays while they're in LA to teach Yunel Escobar how to slide.

Headfirst is risky, this much I know. But am I crazy in thinking that Yunel slides headfirst into a base in an, um, unorthodox manner? Take a look at the screencaps of varying quality below.

Two separate triples (first against the Twins last Saturday, the second the ominous concussion-causing slide from Wednesday), two God-awful slides. Is he doing some sort of Bill Madlock, rolling block homage? I don't get it.

Why on Earth does he come into the base on his side? I know Cuban baseball players pride themselves on being stylish and swagging out every single moment on the field, but Yunel's headfirst sliding is awkward & ugly.

Leaving aside the strained expressions of Escobar in flight — seriously, for such a slick fielder he doesn't appear especially athletic when chugging around the bases — sometimes needs to pull him aside and teach him how to slide. Headfirst or otherwise.

Not only might he get himself killed, he just looks bad. And that isn't what I've come to expect from the swaggering wonder. Keep swinging that mean stick though, first pitch destruction!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Old Habits Die Hard

It isn't that I plan to dump on Jesse Litsch's fine outing. Litsch did a great job moving his pitches around the (generous) zone, getting backwards K after backwards K. He only gave up 6 hits and 2 walks, a great start indeed. Credit to both him and JPA for keeping the A's hitters off-balance.

That said, when the A's batters did manage to get their bats on Jesse's offerings, MAN did they hit him hard. Much like Jo-Jo Reyes the night before, Litsch surrendered as many line drives (6) as he did ground balls (6). While Reyes took it upon himself to boost Travis Snider's UZR and arm scores, Jesse Litsch might just win Rajai Davis a Fielding Bible award. Stinging liner right to Rajai Davis in centerfield becomes a great over the shoulder catch. Long shot to the gap, Davis runs it down in the most spectacular manner possible.

Davis nearly made another great catch but, I feel, fell victim to the video boards in the gap and lost it off the end of his glove. Missing one liner is okay as Davis well on his way to fulfilling Parkes' prophecy and becoming your favorite baseball player, likely ever.

A dangerous game to play but Jesse Litsch played it very, very well last night. He did exactly what Jesse Litsch needs to do: scatter the hitters, avoid walks at all costs, keep the ball in the ballpark. I'll take a few ringing doubles if the strikeouts outnumber the walks, every time.

Speaking of strikeouts, Marc "Led Rzeplin" Rzepczynski pitched OFF HIS ASS last night. 6 batters faced, three strikeouts, another broken bat, two broken bats, one infield pop fly, no hits surrendered. It was awesome, even more awesome than David Purcey's outing the previous day. It is a good time to be a GROFavorite.

Almost as awesome as the manner in which manager John Farrell used Rzepczynski. "Fuck a save", the manager was (not) quoted as saying after the game. Anytime I'm only asked to buckle up for a two-out Rauchride, I'm on board.

AP Photo courtesy of Daylife.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Stepping Up to the Downs Spot

Please excuse my self-indulgence, but GROF favorite Marc Rzepczynski took the mound twice this weekend as a relief pitcher. No way is a momenteus occasion such as the emergence of The New Scott Downs going to slip past me.

Rzep contributed an inning to Kyle Drabek's masterpiece on Saturday and felt the sting of the luck dragon on Sunday. The results were good(ish) but the process was sound. See the strike zone plot below.

Breaking bats and breaking hearts! Rzepczynski, in limited action, stuck with the slider and sinker. Everything is down in the zone save the pitch that plunked that hump Jason Kubel.

Two broken bats, two GIDP, good stuff all around. Still early but encouraging, if Marc Rzepczynski succeeding as a reliever encourages you. Me? It bums me out, as the better he pitches in the pen, the less likely he is to return to the rotation.

I'll keep my complaining to a minimum and simply take what precious satisfaction I can muster from seeing a pitcher come (back?) into his own. Here's hoping the bullpen rigors don't wear him down too quickly.

AP Photo courtesy of Daylife, pitch f/x data from Joe Lefkowitz.

An Inning in the Life of Brett Cecil

An innocent tweet from Marc Hulet (of Fangraphs fame) got me thinking about a few things. First, I thought of Cecil's rapid evolution towards a cagey, soft-tossing lefty before his time.

Then I thought of the old Medical School posts I wrote on Halladay's sequencing. Then I thought of delicious sandwiches.

After lamenting the first and enjoying the third, I came back to the second. Why not take a look at what Cecil did against the Twins on Sunday? See if he actually changed speeds and angles or whatever.

Everything started out well enough, right up until I realized that GAMEDAY HATES BRETT CECIL. The biggest casualty of Cecil's disappearing velocity is the ability of these poor, overworked robots to discern what in the Hell Brett Cecil throws.

After some time I'll never get back and a little tweaking (with Excel 2003 at home, sad face) I took Marc's tweet literally and laid out Brett Cecil's first inning below. Let's travel along with the increasingly crafty lefty and see what worked for him against the Twins during the opening frame.

As a refresher: to properly read these graphs, imagine you are the catcher or umpire. The pitches are coming towards you (from the right hand-side of the image in this case, as Brett Cecil throws with his left hand.)

The RED dots are four seam fastballs, the BLUE dots are two seamers/sinkers, and the green dealies are change ups. Swinging strikes are X'd, called strikes boxed, and balls circled. Foul balls are starred and indicated as such. The bigger the point, the slower the pitch.

The batters are Denard Span (L), Tsuyoshi Nishioka (R), and Delmon Young (R). The strike zone is standardized...mostly. It is pretty much Span's zone for all three bros, which only affects Nishioka in any real way. Here we go.

Great start for Cecil! A Brett Cecil Attempted Four Seamer starts Span off 0-1. First pitch of the game, not a bad time to groove one. Next, Cecil opts for the sinking two seamer under the hands, which Span swings right through. Awesome. 0-2 on the leadoff man is a great way to live.

Cecil (and Arencibia, it should be noted) then attempt to trick poor Denard. Throwing a similar-looking pitch — the change up — in the same spot. The pitch is too far inside and too low, so Denard takes. 1-2.

Rather than waste a pitch, Cecil crosses Span up by coming with one of his "fast-balls" down and away. Span freezes, strike three. Cue cheering, ball thrown around the horn, goggle adjustments. Up next is Tsuyoshi Nishioka, a.k.a. Not Ichiro.

Again, the bottom of Nishioka's strike zone is a little higher than shown here, making the first pitch fastball down and away a clear-cut ball. Cecil then pounds the same spot again and gets the call, evening the count at one.

The slappy Nishioka figures to get defensive with the next pitch so Cecil and Cibia come way inside with a two seamer, a pitch that likely started on the edge of the plate. Nishioka takes and jumps ahead 2-1.

Cecil doesn't want to fall behind a guy without much power (he and I assume, because we're probably racist) so he comes back over the plate. But, as he plays in the American League East, it is a change-up, not a fastball. Nishioka swings through it and immediately regrets many decisions made over the last six months.

With the count now even at two, Cecil throws his BFF change-up on the inner half, freezing the Twins second baseman. Great job of keeping an inexperienced hitter off balance. Two down and up steps the free-swinging Delmon Young.

Despite my "free-swinging" billing, Cecil throws two straight sinkers up and over the plate to Young. Delmon fouls them both away, finding himself in a 0-2 hole.

Cecil then dials up his four seamer, buzzing Young's tower with the highest velo'd fastball he threw all afternoon. Good job of giving Young something to think about and "changing his eye level", as they often say.

Still in the driver's seat against a guy allergic to walking, Cecil goes to his new out-pitch: the change-up. For the second straight time, he throws the change in search of the strikeout.

And a strikeout is exactly what he gets as Young swings through the well-placed change down in the zone. Inning over! Parade planning under way!

This was, sadly, the high point of Cecil's day. He didn't look great at points on Sunday, seeming to battle fatigue as his velocity slipped as the day wore on.

If this is mechanical issue as the Tao and Cal from MUD discussed on Twitter, perhaps Walton and the new bossman can fix it. As he showed in this snapshot, he can mix it up and miss bats in a real way. If it is a health issue...getting it figured out sooner rather than later is preferable. This team will need him come October.

Pitch F/X data courtesy of Brooks Baseball. Get used to reading that.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Kyle Drabek's Day at the Office

You would be hard-pressed to come up with a better season debut for Kyle Drabek. He held off a lineup featuring lefty powerhouses like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Jim freaking Thome. He dominated the rest of the middling, often pathetic Twins lineup AL Central favorites using a variety of fastballs and a few other things thrown in for good measure.

Taking a look at the pitch f/x, I realize it is very difficult to categorize pitches when they're largely varieties of fastball thrown by an inexperienced pitcher. The algorithm "learns" to better categorize his offerings but for now the Gameday-issued classifications are largely a crapshoot. The good men of Mop Up Duty have a solid breakdown of Drabek's start here, below you'll find my own Pitch F/X take.

I tweaked the pitch classifications based on my years of experience and/or using a magic 8 ball. Even after "pouring" over the data, I'm still not 100% convinced I got it all right. The only hit Drabek allowed - a single to Denard Span - looked more like a two-seamer than the cutter it ended up classified as. It's an inexact science, but what you see below is a lot closer than the Gameday version.

A really nice mix, 9 whiffs on 101 pitches is really encouraging. As are the 11 groundballs (!) induced by the Jays young phenom. I'd attribute that largely to the cutter he threw with extreme prejudice. Another look at the pitch selection, as best as I can figure.

A little bit of bleed between two and four seam fastballs, but all-in-all a pretty clean look. The cutter is a trouble if you're a left-handed batter, me thinks. Expect to see it up under the hands of those lefties when he isn't dying that darting two seamer over the outside corner.

The change-up gives a decent change of pace from the straight two-seamer, I wonder if he won't incorporate it more his second time around the league?

In the end it was a great start from a very important player in 2011 and beyond. The strikeouts were a pleasure to see, his lack of minor league K's give me reason to pause but if his new/refined cutter change that, the sky is the limit. Woo! Baseball!

Pitch F/X data courtesy of Brooks Baseball, doin' work for another season. AP Photo courtesy of Daylife.