Whoa! Dr. D's boat blown miraculously ashore by a perfect storm of --- > kludgy hotel computer, restaurant that improbably had an off-market baseball game on, and a staticky internet connection. So understand first that you're talking on a 1951 military walkie-talkie, barely able to make out the voice on the othe end, but badly in need of legit intel. In other words, another day in the life of an SSI denizen.
Threw like 60 fastballs, 45 of them strikes, and less than 10 put into play. (Remember the static. First guy who looks it up and complains gets -Nam style justice dispensed at the muzzle of Sgt. Rock's .223.) It's weird to throw so many fastballs and have like 1, 2 total swings and misses .... Think Bartolo Colon. Location so consistent that the batter is always leaning the wrong way to put the barrel onto the ball. It's like leaning over a garden rail with one hand, trying to pull a 40-lb. rock up over the fence without your feet under you.
Walker is also getting a really nice cut and hop on his fastball. Grizz and I were musing earlier that Nate Karns may have to deal with a "straight" fastball ... not literally straight, but perhaps so typical in its spin and movement that it presents as straight. Taijuan is surely the reverse of this. He's got Mariano-like movement and ...
:: he stops short ::
For sure you value a good starter over a great reliever. But can you just see this guy in the 9th inning? How automatic would he BE?
Back on topic. Hitters used to sit on centered fastballs and aim for the 430-foot mark, but at a certain point the diminishing returns make this the kind of game that will get you 4-hit. Increased command has kept Taijuan in a blizzard of 1-2 counts without getting his second and third knuckles into the doggy's mouth.
I've got to admit, as well, that he's doing way better throwing those slow fastballs (change, slider) to break out of the zone, especially with 2 strikes. So he had like 8 total swings and misses, yet 6 strikeouts against 0 walks. Usually a young pitcher will get blasted and blasted and blasted and then SUDDENLY get good, but Taijuan seems to be the odd duck who is effective at every intermediate stage of his evolution.
Naquin's at-bat in the third was typical. CLICK THIS LINK, go to Classic GameDay at the very bottom, > 3rd inning > Naquin:
- 94 fastball at the letters, foul-tipped back (despite Naquin cheating) 0-1
- 94 jam pitch hand high, called strike (Naquin doesn't want that pitch even if he has the pitch call) 0-2
- 95 jam pitch a little further in, Naquin cheating all the way, fouled, 0-2
- 90 slow fastball fading down out of the zone, Naquin leans over and tops it weakly to pitcher
An example of how the current Taijuan iteration can get away with fastballs against hitters who start the bats way too early.
In Taijuan's last 20 starts last year, the M's won 15 games as he ran a 118:17 CTL ratio in 126 innings, albeit with 17 homers. Now he's got another 14:2 CTL in 18 innings with only 1 homer, and the M's are 2-1 again in those games.
In other words :: crackle, sputter :: I'm starting to buy in to his current incarnation: Colon/Rivera fastball attack and he's gotten fairly good at nibbling with the dubious offspeed stuff.
Some denizens have taken this to the point like "He's our only good pitcher." Such denizens may feel free to take two wins and call Dr. D in the morning. Each of the M's current 12 pitchers, 12 out of 12, is currently preferable to a Strat-O-Matic 100 ERA+ "default rookie" pitcher.
Iwakuma and Felix might be a notch below 2015 levels, not that we are stipulating this in court. But [Felix * 0.90] would remain for choice over the death throes Carlos Silva. Feel free to savor the difference.