I’ve been waiting to see Rudy Owens in Lynchburg for awhile. He came out of nowhere this year to absolutely dominate the South Atlantic League in West Virginia, with a 1.70 ERA, and a 91:15 K/BB ratio in 100.2 innings pitched. In his last eight starts with West Virginia, Owens was untouchable, with a 0.39 ERA, 0.63 WHIP, and a 43:4 K/BB ratio in 46 innings pitched.
Not only did it seem like it took forever for Owens to get promoted to Lynchburg, but his first three games were on the road. I considered driving down to Salem to see him last Tuesday, but decided he would likely pitch this past weekend in Lynchburg. I was in luck, as he was scheduled for Sunday.
Owens has been limited lately as far as innings and pitches go. He went ten days between his second and third start with Lynchburg. He only made 49 pitches last night, despite looking great. This is probably due to the fact that his career high in innings pitched was 58 last year, and he’s already doubled that total this year. Owens will probably head to AA to start the season next year, which means this is probably the only video I will get of him.
Here’s every pitch that Owens threw on Sunday night.
Final Numbers for Owens:
Total Pitches: 49
1st Inning Pitches: 11
2nd Inning Pitches: 11
3rd Inning Pitches: 16
4th Inning Pitches: 11
First Pitch Strikes: 13/17 batters
I waited a long time to see Owens, and he lived up to the hype. The final line doesn’t look dominant, with two runs in four innings on five hits, but Owens really had just one poor inning.
Early in the game Owens was working low in the zone, with a lot of good movement on his off-speed pitches. He was also hitting 88-91 MPH with his fastball, and mixed that fastball effectively with his off-speed pitches. Check out batter number ten above. With a 1-1 count, Owens throws two breaking pitches low (both fouled off), then gets the batter swinging with a higher fastball.
Owens worked the strike zone in an efficient manner. He only threw 13 balls the whole game, and most of those weren’t that far outside of the zone. He got in trouble when he started elevating his pitches. I’ve only seen him for one start, so I’m not sure what the cause of this is. Maybe he was mixing up his approach the second time through the order. Maybe it’s due to fatigue, as a result of pitching so many innings this season. Maybe it’s just a fluke, something he normally doesn’t do in other starts.
Owens only pitched four innings. He only threw 49 pitches. Still, that was enough to confirm that he’s probably going to start the 2010 season in AA. So far in Lynchburg he’s picked up where he left off in West Virginia. He’s allowed one walk in 18.1 innings pitched. He has a 2.95 ERA, thanks mostly to one poor start against the Salem Red Sox. That start was only the third time this season that he’s allowed more than two runs in an outing.
Owens works the strike zone, which is probably why he doesn’t give up a lot of walks. He keeps the ball low with some nice movement on his breaking pitches, which is probably why he hasn’t allowed a lot of hits this season (just 92 in 119 innings). Finally, he mixes up his pitches well, including a nice fastball that can get the job done, which has probably contributed to the 107 strikeouts this season.
If I had to project who Owens could become, I’d say it would be Zach Duke, and by Zach Duke, I mean the 2009 version of Duke. In his time in Lynchburg, Duke pitched 97 innings, with a 106:20 K/BB ratio, and a 1.39 ERA. We know now that Duke isn’t a strikeout pitcher as those numbers would indicate, but can get the occasional strikeout thanks to his good control, a good mixture of pitches, and good command on those pitches. This small sample size from Owens suggests that he possesses the same traits.
The success of Owens will largely depend on his control. I project that the further Owens goes up the ladder, the fewer strikeouts he will get. That won’t be a problem as long as he keeps the walks down, and doesn’t allow a lot of hits. This will require good control, and a good mixture of his pitches, which is something he displayed last night. If he keeps that up, he should have a bright career ahead of him.