Jameson Taillon had two poor outings for the Pittsburgh Pirates before his quality start on Sunday. Are these cause for concern going forward?
He missed about a month while he rehabbed from his surgery, but he still put up great numbers. Over 11 starts, he tossed 62.2 innings and gave up 20 runs (19 earned) on 62 hits and 22 walks. He struck out 59 and had an ERA of 2.73 in the first half of the season.
However, the second half of the season, specifically a few of his recent starts have been rough. Until he lasted six and a third innings on this past Sunday, Taillon had failed to record a quality start since the break. His two starts prior to Sunday were particularly disastrous. On August 1st he coughed up eight runs on 11 hits to the Cincinnati Reds in three and two thirds innings and before that on July 25th he allowed ten run (nine earned) on nine hits in three innings. He each start he allowed just one walk, so free passes were not the reason these outings were abbreviated.
Taillon did bounce back on Sunday and delivered a fine start. He limited the San Diego Padres to just two runs on five hits over six and a third innings to go along with two walks and eight strikeouts. The Padres did all of their damage in the opening frame and after the second inning Taillon did not allow a hit.
So at least for one start, it appears that Taillon put those two subpar outings behind him.
Why were these two starts so bad? There are a few indicators of how these games ended up going off the rails for Taillon. First, his swinging strike percentage on the season is 8.3. On July 25th it was 4.3 and on August 1st it was 4.4 There were only two other games earlier in the season when Taillon recorded a swinging strike percentage of less than five, so clearly he was not as sharp as he normally is when he is on the mound.
BABIP explains some of it
The BABIP that the Reds and Giants put up against Taillon in those contests were another indication that he was flat-out off on those days. So far this season, the BABIP against him has been .368, which is still a high number considering Taillon’s arsenal and high level of control. The Giants had a BABIP of .500 on July 25th and the Reds followed that up with a .529 on August 1st. In fact, since the All Star Break Taillon has yet to record a BABIP under .400 against the opposition. But given that these numbers are so ridiculously high, it makes sense that the opposing teams are getting lucky in finding grass instead of gloves.
What does his pitch usage say?
One aspect of Taillon’s game that shows that perhaps these were just two bad starts back to back instead of a trend is the percentage of each pitch type he threw in those games and their velocities were right around his season average. So far this season he has thrown his fastball an average of 66.5 percent of the time with a velocity of 95.1. Against the Giants he threw it 65.7 percent of the time with a velocity of 94.1. When he faced the Reds he threw a fastball 71.1 percent of the time at 95.2 MPH. So these are right around what he has done all season. His other pitch types were similar in those two games.
Taillon typically throws a curveball 24.2 percent of the time at 81.2 MPH. Versus the Giants he threw it 25.7 percent of the time with an average velocity of 79.9. The Reds saw a curveball come out of Taillon’s hand 21.1 percent of the time at 81.1 MPH. For his changeup, Taillon has gone to that pitch 9.3 percent of the time at 88.1 As usual, he did not rely on this pitch as much as the other two against the Giants (8.6 percent, 87.7 MPH) or the Reds (7.8 percent, 88.7 MPH). Once again, his usage of his breaking and offspeed pitches in those two games are about what he has averaged this season.
With all of that being said, Taillon heavily emphasized the curveball yesterday against the Padres. He threw it for 39 out of his 101 total pitches — 38.9 percent. That figure is 13.8 percentage points higher than his season total curveball usage, which clocks at 25.1 percent.
At this point it is hard to determine if the heavy increase in benders was a one-off occurrence, perhaps a way for Taillon to find effectiveness when his other stuff was not working, or something else.
However, because of Taillon’s level of talent and pitch arsenal, it seems more likely that he just happened to have two very poor outings in a row as opposed to a few starts that could begin a downward trend. He bounced back with a strong outing for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday and all signs point to the second-year hurler putting his recent up-and-down play behind him.
Image credit – Daniel Decker Photography