is tantalizing, to say the least. Guys like him don't come along all that often (and we've been blessed to have TWO of them in the last decade, with the other being Felix) and when they do, it's exciting to see them blossom.
Wow. Taijuan did locate his fastball.
They tell you this all the time, that Shlabotnik or Cloude or Wolcott or somebody is "really commanding the fastball." Rarely, it's true. On Monday, it actuall was true for once.
Taijuan seems to have a new little rock step. He slides the front foot back to 1B about six inches, then slides it back into place, and then throws. The effect? The front shoulder stays tucked (except occasionally on the changeup). The hitters see Taijuan's chest. The moving parts are fewer. Dr. D likey.
If you're one of the rare lurkers who has not yet learned to take Dr. D at his word -- every word, obviously -- then you could look it up. 67 strikes in 98 pitches, and we'll let you google the first-pitch strikes. Way higher, even. Dr. D read somewhere that "First Strike Percentage" correlates with several good things. It's not important enough to go look it up again. The concepts of "first pitch strikes" and "look both ways before crossing" have been around for awhile, we're pretty sure.
For all that, Taijuan still woulda gotten hit around. The first 2 IP, he was throwing 93-94 fastballs [knee high or on the black] and occasional 89 changeups [knee high or on the black]. SSI has warned Taijuan frequently about this noxious habit. If the ball is coming through an area the size of a Kindle, they A-R-E going to smoke it.
But, suddenly, in the 2nd IP with men on base, and an 0-2 pitch on Jarrett Parker, Taijuan CHANGED THE EYE LEVEL and fired a 95 fastball about a foot-and-a-half higher than he'd been throwing it. It wasn't even at the top of the zone. It was more than enough to detonate Parker into a fine pink mist. First of 6 strikeouts against 0 walks.
All of a sudden, Taijuan was both (1) Lou/Lloyd "macho" via the mode of (2) Dr. Grumpy surgical, simply because he was "aggressively" throwing the ball up and down in the zone. He had 3 weapons and he needed only 3 weapons:
- Fastball painted at the knees or on the black ("pitch to contact" fastballs --- > to get ahead)
- Fastball up (or "challenge" with +2 MPH down the middle --- > to draw a whuff)
- Changeup down
The changeup down was poor, but it was serviceable. And Taijuan had his 4th straight lockdown start!
For 4 starts in a row, Taijuan has thrown 70% strikes or more. Counting backwards in time, his IP-H-R-ER-BB-K have been:
7.0 7 1 1 0 6
6.0 8 1 1 2 6
8.0 5 3 3 1 7
8.0 2 0 0 0 8
That was against the Giants and three lefty-stacked lineups: the Yankees, and Cleveland doubled up. Gotta be down with the BB columns, doncha?
Later in the game, Taijuan poached a few called strikes with "snow flake" 75-MPH hooks and the vision became clear. If and when Taijuan is executing this very simple routine:
- Snipe a few 0-1 counts and 2-1 counts with his slow hook, when it's safe to do so
- (which they n-e-v-e-r swing at -- 0 swings in 5 curves Monday -- and this really fouls up their timing)
- Vary the fastball up-and-down (92-93 to paint low-away; 96 up)
- Keep the changeup down
Then, ladies and gentlemen, he'll reliably wipe out enemy rodent hitters.
When is that, this concept "if and when"? Right now it is looking imminent.