I’ve seen Jameson Taillon several times this year, and pretty well spread out throughout the season. I saw him in Spring Training, saw his debut in West Virginia, saw him in early July, and again tonight in his next to last start. Today was easily his best start out of all the times I’ve see him, and possibly his best start of the year. Taillon threw four shutout innings, giving up three hits, no walks, and striking out nine.
It wasn’t just the great stat line and the nine strikeouts that made this one of Taillon’s best starts of the year. It was the way he pitched. Taillon has been working all year on commanding his fastball, and driving it down in the zone. Today he did a great job of that, keeping the ball down for the most part, and also pitching inside.
“Everything is just starting to come together for me, and it’s nice to end the year hitting my stride,” Taillon said about his performance today.
“In this league, hitters will make you pay if you don’t (get the ball down) and if you don’t execute your pitches,” Taillon said. “I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better at it, and I see the importance of pitching for effect, pitching not to throw strikes all the time, pitching in for balls, brush them off, as well as being down in the zone. I’m still getting better on it. There’s always room for improvement, but I feel I’ve gotten a lot better.”
He started off with a quick first inning, getting a one pitch fly out to center field, then striking out the next two batters. He returned with two strikeouts, a pop out, and a hit batter in the second. The hit batter was an inside pitch to brush the hitter off the plate, and the ball ended up hitting the jersey of the batter as he dodged backwards.
Taillon gave up his first hit of the game in the third inning. Hector Rodriguez reached base on a passed ball strike three. He went to steal second in the next at-bat, prompting Drew Maggi to cover the bag. Ruben Sosa hit a hard grounder to the exact spot Maggi was previously positioned, turning what would have been an easy double play in to a situation with runners at first and second. However, Taillon got a strikeout and a fly out to end the frame.
He gave up his only hard hit ball of the night in the fourth, with a fly ball off the right field wall, putting runners at second and third with one out. Again, Taillon was dominant, getting two key strikeouts with his tremendous curveball, and ending his day after 68 pitches.
The strikeouts were largely due to Taillon’s fastball getting the job done early in the count. His fastball set up his curveball, which is a pitch that is of major league quality, far more advanced than South Atlantic League hitters are used to seeing.
“He had a better delivery out of the stretch, which allowed him to keep the ball down,” West Virginia manager Gary Robinson said. ”He’s been working really hard on that.”
The improvement was obvious today, as the fastball allowed Taillon to dominate with his curveball, to the tune of nine strikeouts, with most of those strikeouts coming on his curveball. He was hitting both sides of the plate with the pitch, getting right handers to chase low and away, and catching the inside corners on right handers on a pitch that looks like it will be way outside coming out of the hand. He faced one left hander today, striking him out both times, the first time looking, and the second time with a curveball in the dirt.
Taillon has one more start on the season, but this start is definitely a way you want to end the season. As for his progression this year, where does Taillon stand with his development schedule?
“Exactly where he should be,” West Virginia manager Gary Robinson said. ”He’s learned a lot. I think he’s in a perfect spot now to go to instructional league and pick up a few things to jump start him in to Spring Training. You never know where this kid may end up. He’s a competitor, he’s a worker, he’s a good teammate. He’s good to have on your club, not just because he has a good arm.”
That last point was shown after the game. West Virginia won 9-0 on a great all around effort by the team, with the offense recording 19 hits, and Justin Ennis, Rinku Singh, and Jason Townsend closing out the last five innings of the shutout. After the game, Taillon waited by the door of the locker room, congratulating every player that walked through the door. Not only is he a guy who can go out and dominate opposing hitters to the tune of nine strikeouts in four innings, but he’s also a clubhouse leader, which is amazing when you consider that he’s only 19 years old.