Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Breaking Down Jake McGee's Debut

UPDATE: You can check out some video of his fastball, his breaking ball, and a side shot of him warming up at the bottom of this post.

Or, "Over-analyzing 22 Pitches." Jake McGee made his first AAA appearance on Sunday for the Bulls, his second career bullpen appearance (the first: 2005 with Hudson Valley). He entered in the 6th inning, and here's what transpired:

One important note! I didn't know this, but apparently Durham's 5:05 Sunday starts mean that the sun is in such a spot that there is apparently a bad glare off of the batter's eye. The PBP announcer mentions this and speculates that strikeout numbers in Sunday games are "significantly higher" than other games. So keep that in mind.

Alex Presley was the first batter he faced. A lefty, Presley batted third in the Indianapolis Indians line-up. In 42 games at AAA, Presley has a .349/.378/.512 line against lefties, though in his career he's hit just .267 against southpaws. First pitch is a fastball, called for a strike on the inside part of the plate, registered on the Bulls' TV gun at 93 MPH. Second pitch is in again, this time a little higher, and Presley fights it off foul the other way. It was another fastball, this one at 94. He continues pounding Presley in, and Presley again fouls off a fastball, this one at 96. He goes with the fastball once again inside, and Presley foul tips it into Navarro's glove for strike 3.
Pitch 1 - Fastball - Called strike - 93
Pitch 2 - Fastball - Foul - 94
Pitch 3 - Fastball - Foul - 96
Pitch 4 - Fastball - Foul tip - 96

Brandon Moss, a lefty-handed hitting outfielder with some big-league time, was next up. Moss hits lefties decently, .276 average off them in 2010, and .290 for his minor-league career. McGee missed down and away with a fastball at 92 MPH, then missed again down again at 94. Moss swung and missed at the third pitch, a fastball away at 92. McGee evened the count at 2-2 with a called strike inside at 94 before running it full with a fastball a little off the plate away at 96. On 3-2, he gets a second foul tip strikeout, this time with a fastball away at 94. I'm guessing it was something with the scouting reports, but McGee pounded Presley inside but stayed away to Brandon Moss except for the called strike inside.
Pitch 1 - Fastball - Ball - 92
Pitch 2 - Fastball - Ball - 94
Pitch 3 - Fastball - Swinging strike - 92
Pitch 4 - Fastball - Called strike - 94
Pitch 5 - Fastball - Ball - 96
Pitch 6 - Fastball - Foul tip - 94

John Bowker followed, the third straight left-handed hitting outfielder in a row. Recently traded, Bowker had split time between the San Francisco Giants and their AAA club, Fresno. A lifetime .286 hitter against lefties, Bowker is hitting just .227 off them this season. McGee starts him off with - surprise! - a fastball, called for a strike on the outside corner at the knees, 94 MPH. He drops his first breaking ball in for a strike to make it 0-2. The PBP guy called it a slider, but I would classify it as a curveball. It's possible that he throws one type to drop in for a strike and another to drop out of the zone and get a swinging strike one. Anyway, he finishes Bowker off with a fastball away at 96 that is swung at and missed.
Pitch 1 - Fastball - Called strike - 94
Pitch 2 - Curveball - Called strike - 79
Pitch 3 - Fastball - Swinging strike - 96

After the Bulls' half of the inning, McGee starts the 7th against Jonathan Van Every, yet another lefty. Van Every is just 8-47 against lefties this season, though he's a career .256 hitter vs. LHP. McGee starts things off with a 93 MPH fastball, called for a strike on the inside corner, up a bit. He goes back to pretty much the same spot, this time at 96, and this time Van Every swings and misses. And he ends the AB with almost the exact same pitch, a 96 MPH fastball up and in that Van Every whiffs on.
Pitch 1 - Fastball - Called strike - 93
Pitch 2 - Fastball - Swinging strike - 96
Pitch 3 - Fastball - Swinging strike 96

Luke Carlin, a switch-hitter, is the first righty McGee faces. His splits are roughly even, a career .266 hitter against lefties. McGee pours a fastball over the plate for a called strike at 94 before Carlin puts the first ball in play against him. It was a fastball low, but over the middle of the plate at 95. Carlin put a late swing on it and hit a sinking liner to right field that Justin Ruggiano made a nice running catch on.
Pitch 1 - Fastball - Called strike - 94
Pitch 2 - Fastball - In play, out - 95

Pedro Ciriaco, a righty, was the last McGee faced. Ciriaco hits RHP better than LHP, hitting .229 vs. LHP this year and .254 for his career. Ciriaco was behind on the first pitch, a fastball at 95, and fouled it off to the right side. McGee went upstairs with his next fastball, getting Ciriaco to swing and miss at a ball out of the zone, registered at 95. McGee's hardest fastball of the night, at 97, missed way high on 0-2. McGee got his fifth strikeout on the next pitch, a 96-MPH fastball on the outside corner that was foul tipped into Navarro's glove.
Pitch 1 - Fastball - Foul - 95
Pitch 2 - Fastball - Swinging strike - 95
Pitch 3 - Fastball - Ball - 97
Pitch 4 - Fastball - Foul tip - 96

All in all, a fine debut, glare on the batter's eye or not. He threw a few fastballs in the 92-93 range early on, but consistently pumped them at 94-96 as he settled in. It was only two innings, of course, but it's obvious his fastball has the juice to be a swing-and-miss offering. He only threw one breaking ball, and while it may not have the hard bite (like, say, vintage Scott Kazmir), it can be an effective pitch when he mixes it in. The most impressive thing might have been how he pounded the strike zone: Out of 22 pitches, only 4 were balls. A few pitches caught a lot of plate, but for the most part he was working the corners. If he shows this kind of stuff consistently, the Rays will almost certainly use him out of the big-league bullpen in September.


Breaking ball:

Warming up:


  1. Great stuff Kevin. Wonder if the slider at 79 was really a slider, I'd think a little faster for a slider.

  2. I'm thinking it may have been a curveball too. I'm working on getting a video/gif of it posted.

  3. Sounds great. Clearly, McGee has mastered the foul tip strikeout, if nothing else.

  4. Video added at the bottom of the post. I'm 99% sure it was a curveball, so I've changed that.

  5. Hey guys, Kevin that was a sweet breakdown. Awesome read for people who are aware of what this guy could do out of our bullpen in October. I was at the Montgomery game when he walked off the mound after throwing a 97mph fastball high. I knew it was something serious when he left in the middle of the at bat. I'm so glad that he's fought to come back like this. He is crutial to our success at the big league level, especially with our lack of power lefties in the relief role.