Instead of just last week's rookie pitching debuts, I'm including Monday through Wednesday's debuts as well. Hello, Neftali Feliz.
This is a pretty big batch of pitchers this time around, led by Feliz and one more fireballer, Waldis Joaquin. We get the Orioles' Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman, Bud Norris filling in for Roy Oswalt, Casey Fien working out of the Detroit bullpen and a pair of Chicago pitchers, Mitch Atkins on the North Side and Jhonny Nunez on the South Side.
Just for a change of pace, I'm breaking the eight rookies into four groups. As usual, these are my own pitch classifications and will not match Gameday in many cases (especially with rookies). If you don't feel like reading, skip to the bottom for the data table.
Feliz and Joaquin have live arms. Feliz is hotter, but Joaquin, just a tick slower, throws a frightening amount of strikes. The Giants have something there, and should be, and could be, just as happy as Texas.
Feliz throws over 100 mph with regularity, Joaquin kept his fastball above 97 but just below 100. Feliz averages 99.5, almost a full mph more than Joaquin.
Which would you rather have, and this is only from one game for Joaquin and four for Feliz, the guy throwing 99 but in the zone almost 3 out of 4, or the guy throwing 100 but in the zone 2 out of 4? What if I told you the "slower" guy also throws a sinker? At the same speed? What if I told you they both do. Maybe.
I think Feliz threw a couple two-seamers. I may be over-reading the break, to borrow a golf term. Or over-read the borrow, to break out another golf term.
Finishing off Joaquin, all 13 of his pitches, are two cutters. Or sliders. Or, could they be, slutters? 86 mph seems slider-speed for a guy like this, but five inches of "rise" against the force of gravity says otherwise. More data needed.
Feliz has thrown 66 pitches. I have 49 fastballs, 2 sinkers, 7 "curves" which I think are slurves, and 8 change-ups. His 90 mph pitch is not a sinker, it is a circle-change. I attirbute that grip diagnosis to a commenter on some thread some where on the interwebs. Someone checked the video and was able to see the grip on the change, but not on the breaking ball. Sorry I forgot to bookmark or clip your comment, video watching Ranger fan.
Brian Bannister would call Feliz' change-up a power change. It moves almost like a Derek Lowe sinker. Nasty stuff. For the slurve, think Carlos Marmol minus a few mph and a with less sweep and sink. Feliz has trouble throwing his offspeed pitches for strikes. He's just 3 for 15 so far.
Last though on Feliz: his fastball has yielded a whiff rate of .35 that would be impressive for a slider or a curve. That's insane for a four-seam fastball. I think it's the 4 or 5 extra inches of tail on that thing, and not the hop, that causes that problem for hitters. He moves that thing A LOT. It doesn't seem fair.
Flips of the Birds
The Orioles dipped into the farm system twice, grabbing Tillman first, and later Matusz. Tillman has made his second start already.
After looking at the first two guys, Tillman's 94 mph fastball seems pedestrian, but it isn't since he's throwing several innings, not just one or two. Matusz, who mixes in a two-seam sinker, throws both of his fastballs plenty hard, averaging close to 93 mph.
Tillman's a righty and Matusz a southpaw. Their four-seam fastballs, spin movement-wise, are very similar with Tillman's extra speed coming with a little less tail and a little more hop.
Matusz throws more strikes (.64 to .56) and gets more whiffs (.19 to .07), at least in the limited sample to date. Roughly 1 in 4 of their heaters put in play were hit on the ground, and about 1 in 5 were marked as line drives by the MLB stringers.
Matusz' sinker sinks and tails a couple or three inches off the path of the four-seamer, at almost the same speed. He also threw it for strikes (.61) which I find to be impressive, and yielded a ground ball rate in the upper 50s.
On to the change-ups. Matusz actually throws his harder than Tillman, but a mph (83 vs 82). Average fastball minus average change-up spreads end up being 10 mph for Matusz and more than 12 for Tillman.
Gap isn't the only important thing about a change-up, but I believe they could both afford to close it up a bit. In their combined three starts, neither pitcher got a grounder with his change-up, which is odd.
The main difference between these pitchers, besides their handedness, comes with the breaking stuff. Matusz throws a slider, Tillman a curveball. Tillman gets almost eight inches of drop from top-spin, while Matusz showed a good sinking slider that had a bit of top-spin (we'll see after some more data from more parks).
Despite the big difference in action, their breaking stuff moves at about the same speed. Tillman pushes 80 with the power curve while Matusz sneaks in above that mark with the slider. So far, very little contact against either.
Tillman, power righty. Matusz, hard throwing lefty. Matusz is around the zone more, Tillman has the nastier stuff. Matusz can actually get some ground balls, Tillman hasn't shown that he can.
Casey and Bud
I really have no reason to put these two together. Fien had a good debut, but struggled after that. Detroit optioned him back to Triple-A on Tuesday. I can't see anything special about his 93 mph fastball that explain its success.
Fien throws his four-seamer it for strikes (.62) and misses a lot of bats (.26). Small sample, of course, but those are both good numbers. Just a sprinkling of batted balls against it, no grounders. Otherwise, Fien is a ground ball machine. His slider and sinker make-up around 1/4 of his pitch mix a piece, outnumber the four-seam fastball when combined.
Fien throws his sinker as hard, if not harder, than his fastball. He struggles to find the zone (.39) and is yet to get a whiff with it. He's managed to get three ground balls and a home run with it. His slider, coming in around 81 or 81 mph, has a nice bit of sink to it (similar to Matusz in that regard).
With the slider, Fiend has even fewer strikes than the sinker, but has missed almost as many bats as he with the four-seam fastball. No one has lifted it yet. He does have a second off-speed pitch, some type of change-up. He only threw one, about 83 mph with less tail than the sinker but more sink.
Norris is an instant hero in Houston. After a relief appearance in Wrigley Field, Norris took a turn for Oswalt in the rotation. And he dealt. With just three pitches and two speeds, he may get exposed at some point. But his stuff is good, and guys have done well with worse in this league.
With a fastball that averages almost 95 mph, you can see why he may not need a lot of tricks in the bag. 60% strikes, which is good, but he's pretty much average or better with all my favorite attributes. That includes whiffs (.125) and SLGCON (.455).
Norris' off-speed stuff consists of an 87 mph change-up and an 88 mph slider. Starting with the slider, Bud throws strikes (.50), misses bats (.33) and hasn't given up much of anything (.091 SLGCON, 45% GB).
We haven't seen much of it yet,, but the change-up has done about as well as the slider for Norris. But with less strikes, less whiffs and more grounders. No base hits, yet.
South Side, North Side - Not Much to Say
The Sox saw Nunez throw six pitches, and that was enough for them. Four sinkers (93 mph) and a pair of fastballs (94 mph). Atkins had a couple relief appearances for the Cubs. He mostly threw sliders, which reminded me a bit of Randy Wells' slider. You can read more about Atkins at my blog, Cubs f/x.
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