Level 551?, sure, seeing as level 451 was last year. We've chattered each other up on this kid worse than Kevin Hart just before Ice Cube decides he has a fly on his face. Worth another clarification / obfuscation / you be da judge, because Tony Blengino "predicts a big season for Walker," on the following grounds:
1) Taijuan's bad start in 2015 doesn't really count
2) He allowed hard-hit balls in 2015, which will naturally smooth out as he learns
3) Other things behind the ESPN paywall
As to 1), this raises the question: Fo shizzle. On or about May 25th, in the vicinity of the Safeco pitching rubbger, there were two cleats with bloody stumps sticking up. After May 25 he was 10-3, 3.62 with 118 K's and 17 BB's in 126 IP, which numbers were successfully pre-replicated by several others. Notably Greg Maddux in 1995 and Sandy Koufax in the first four games of 1965.
As to 2), Taijuan gave up a 115 "Adjusted Contact Score" because his "slider" and "splitfinger" pitches were slow fastballs. Every time he brought anything else to the mound, that's ANYthing else, he scheduled himself for a 9 1 1 1 1 11 box score. Is 'cause his fastball is Pineda quality, truly dominant. This only occurred about 4 times; the rest of the 3.62 ERA was based solely on a fastball that batters were sitting on.
Never outran the hideous start which masked a pretty strong summer (see, this is totally public domain stuff - Dr D)
- IP cap hit in mid-Sept
- Threw more strikes (CTL gains) (down to 2.1 BB - Dr D)
- But they weren't always quality strikes (HR spike)
- It's all here - stuff, skills, size, pedigree -
- So next step is cutting DIS% (number of early showers) to reach UPside: 3.25 ERA
Which is what HQ says when it's got a young fledgling superstar on its hot hot hot list. You, the discerning SSI Think Tanker, realize that Taijuan is a decent #3 / very good #4 with one pitch, and that when pitch #2 arrives you can plan on his being an ace. The questions for Taijuan, as the scouts have somehow forseen, since he was drafted, are only whether he'll get hurt and when that 2nd pitch arrives.
Personally I'd advise caution as to Taijuan blasting out of the gate. It took him two months last year to groove into that hair-fine touch for making 1 pitch work; it's an almost subliminal feel for what you can get away with. He didn't get good because things jelled. He became exquisitely sharp in using a dubious approach. This suggests to me slow start, not fast start.
But baby baby! If there's any way to get hitters off Dead Red, he is a holocaust waiting to happen. For your dead-of-winter enjoyment, here he is detonating the pesky rodent angels (disdainful lowercase) on Sept. 14th
Pitch 1 = disappearing 96 fastball (overhand, of course)
Pitch 2 = nuclear splitfinger at 92 (if any one of his secondary pitches gains this kind of bite ...)
Pitch 3 = Josh Beckett yellow hammer
Pitch 4 = 96 MPH up the ladder vs LHB, garbage swing - and it's out-and-over no less
Pitch 4a = gotta give LoMo credit for tagging Mike Trout's face on THAT slide (wasn't able to chew his Subway Chicken that night)
Pitch 5 = See pitch 4
Pitch 6 = Pretty decent split, made a lot better by his fastball that night (credit for "nibbling" if he absolutely must throw the split
Pitch 7 = 97 MPH pure challenge pitch - in the 7th inning
As to that #6 above, and to a lesser degree #2 also ... John Smoltz made some comment on TV recently, to the effect that "I don't know if I EVER threw my splitfinger for a strike" ... he qualified it in some way, like "with two strikes" or something but honestly. It was something to the effect that he went his whole career ALWAYS throwing that outside the zone. The point is, you can set ML hitters up to RELIABLY start their swings early. Ask Jamie Moyer.
Well, this was September, and here Taijuan was, throwing the 89-91 splitfinger outside the zone, so who knows. Maybe the Smoltz Approach leaped him a plateau even without any change in skillz?
Don't know what this has to do with anything, but just thought I'd throw it in: THE greatest pitcher who ever lived used one pitch, an overwhelming fastball. Taijuan's 2015 .. it's an approach that has been around.
Been a long, cold winter. Spring Training nears. Watch this space for your morning cuppa. Time to get into blogging form :- )