We saw three major league debuts in pitching rotations on Wednesday. Despite good stuff, the results were unspectacular. Let’s start with Angels rookie Garrett Richards…
5 innings, 6 hits, 6 runs, 2 walks passes, 2 strikeouts, loss
Richards is 23 years old and came straight up from Double-A. His strikeout rate dipped to about six and a half per nine this year after being over nine earlier in his professional career, but he’s a groundball guy and doesn’t walk too many. He showed a sinker, four-seamer, slider and change in his first big league game. (The charts below are of horizontal and vertical spin deflection in inches, from the catcher’s perspective and relative to a theoretical spinless pitch.)
Richards’ four-seam is more like a cutter than anything else. He seemed willing to throw the sinker more to lefties and the four-seam/cut more to righties, and he was able to drop his slider in for called strikes (and not for whiffs). He got a tough draw for his first start, having to pitch against the potent New York Yankees lineup, but his mid-90s-plus-movement combo should turn into some good results sooner rather than later.
5.2 innings, 8 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts, no decision
The Blue Jays’ Alvarez is just 21 and, like Richards, was called up from Double-A. Maybe he’s best known for hitting 101 mph in the minor leagues. There was none of that Wednesday, though he certainly brought above-average velocity with both four-seam and two-seam fastballs. Alvarez also threw a change-up, which is his primary out-pitch, and a slider.
The pitch clusters are not so tight on Alvarez, though I think a lot of that has to do with weird cameras at Rogers Centre. Anyway, the change goes to both righties and lefties, while the slider was reserved for just righties. With Carlos Villanueva’s recent injury, Alvarez could stick around, though he is very young and doesn’t have Triple-A experience.
6 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts, loss
Making his major league debut at 26, the Astros’ Henry Sosa is the veteran of this crew; he really settled down after a three-run first inning. Like Richards, Sosa showed a lot of sinkers in his first game.
Sosa’s slider gave Diamondbacks hitters some trouble yesterday, as he was able to generate 10 swinging strikes with it. He saved the straight fastball for right-handed batters (as did Richards), and mainly stuck with the two-seam pitch. The only change Sosa threw was on a 3-1 pitch, and it didn’t have a ton of separation from his fastballs.