Jameson Taillon and the Bradenton Marauders played the Tampa Yankees at classic Legends Field Friday night. Following are my notes regarding Taillon’s performance (since he was easily the most interesting of the players involved in the game).
Overall, Taillon had a very good night. He ended up pitching 6 innings, throwing 77 pitches (53 strikes) with 4 strikeouts, 2 walks, 4 hits and 2 runs. Both of the runs and 4 of the 6 baserunners came in one inning. Over the last 3 innings, he only gave up one baserunner. Most of us would like that kind of performance from a starting pitcher, but that actually is not as good as Taillon’s results in his prior starts in 2012.
Taillon struggled a bit with his command of his pitches during the game. While the above results are very good (53 of 77 pitches thrown for strikes; just 2 walks in 6 innings), Jameson was not hitting his spots like he wanted. Fortunately, with a 95 MPH fastball and a nasty curve, you don’t have to be perfect to be effective.
The 3rd inning was a good example of this. He was up in the zone with the first batter, resulting in a leadoff single. After getting 2 quick outs with some great pitches (including a 3-pitch strikeout and a ground out on a changeup), he threw another great pitch to start the next batter. It was a changeup that dropped just below the knees in the middle of the plate and resulted in a very weak roller to the 3B side of pitcher’s mound. The problem was that it was hit TOO weak and Taillon’s throw to 1B was late.
Taillon got an 0-2 count on the next batter and then threw 3 curve balls. The first and third curve were the same pitch — attempts to back door the curve on the outside corner to the left-hand hitter, but both curves stayed off the plate. The other curve was more of his typical curve that dropped straight down, but was started too low, was obviously going to be out of the strike zone and the batter did not swing. The 3-2 pitch was a fastball that stayed low for ball four.
This sequence seemed to affect Jameson as he went to a 3-0 count (for seven consecutive balls) on the next batter before surrendering a 2-run single to account for the only runs either team would score in the game.
I have to give Taillon a lot of credit after this batter. He settled down tremendously and went on to retire 10 of his last 11 batters, including having a 5-pitch 4th inning (which included a strikeout) and an 8-pitch 5th inning.
His strikeouts were very well set up. The first two strikeouts came in the first inning on 1-2 counts in which he threw 2 beautiful curves that dropped out of the zone and resulted in swinging strikeouts. He also got a strikeout later in the game with a fastball on an 0-2 count where the batter was clearly expecting something off speed; and another on a curve (or change) up in the zone which completely fooled the batter.
Taillon’s velocity stayed very consistent throughout the game as well. He was generally hitting 94-95 on the gun from the 1st inning through the 6th inning. There was no drop off even in his last inning. His curve was in the 82-83 range with the changeup a bit higher, around 85.
The other great thing about his performance was that there were only two fly balls to outfielders (both easily caught) and I believe only one of the four hits made it to the outfield grass on a fly. He did not give up an extra base hit, he got several infield pop ups, and generally kept the hitters off-balance enough so that they did not have great contact.
This was the first time I have seen Taillon pitch live in a game. I came away impressed, but also realizing he still has a little ways to go before he reaches his potential. I did not see a pitcher trying to throw the ball as hard as he could, regardless of where it was going. But I also did not see a pitcher who has full command over his pitches at a couple critical points during the game. If he’s able to improve that command a bit more, then he should be a very special pitcher. And given that he’s only 20 years old and 2 years removed from high school, I fully expect that he will reach that potential.