With only 127.2 innings under his professional belt the Detroit Tigers number three prospect Drew Smyly made his Major League debut today against the Tampa Bay Rays. Smyly would record four strikeouts in four-plus innings of work and allow only one run but had trouble finding the zone and escaped what could have been a disastrous start.
Smyly threw 28 pitches in the first inning alone, loading the bases with nobody out but escaping the jam without a single run scoring. Take a look at his first inning’s work:
Only 13 strikes and 15 balls in the first inning and he never went to the lower right-hand quadrant of the zone, something he would shy away from the entire game for reasons that are unknown to me.
Smyly’s second inning was his most successful one working a perfect frame with only 11 pitches thrown but only five for strikes.
The third inning started off fine with a strikeout of Desmond Jennings but then Carlos Pena took the very first pitch of his at-bat over the right field wall for a homerun. Smyly will quickly learn that these pitches do not usually stay in play in the Majors:
It wouldn’t be the only mistake of the inning for Smyly as he threw Evan Longoria a fastball up and middle-in that he hit for a double with no one out. The next two batters would fly out but on pitches that were up in the zone. Smyly still refused to work the lower part of the zone, especially the lower right-hand quadrant. Smyly threw 21 pitches this inning but 14 for strikes.
Smyly enters the fourth inning and works the upper part of the zone and gives up a one-out single to Jose Lobaton and follows it up by walking Elliot Johnson for his third walk allowed in the game. Smyly would fall behind Matt Joyce 2-0 before getting him to pop out and then he would strike Jennings out for the second time. He threw 26 pitches that inning, 15 for strikes.
Smyly would enter the 5th inning with 86 pitches and would not last long. He would hit Carlos Pena with his fourth pitch of the game and exit stage left, giving way for Collin Balester who would bail him out by stranding the runner on base and striking out two.
Smyly ended with only 4 complete innings and 90 pitches under his belt with 49 of them being strikes and the other 41 balls. He would average 90.63 mph on his fastball and 80.32 on his slider, throwing the two pitches 78 times combined. Smyly completely neglected the lower right-hand quadrant of the zone, an area of the zone a left-hander usually lives in. Take a look:
Smyly was lucky he left the game with only one run allowed. You can’t walk three, hit another, and live in the upper part of the zone and succeed in this league unless you have Justin Verlander stuff but even he will work the lower half of the zone more than the upper half.
Drew Smyly has a bright future ahead of him but he will learn very quickly that you cannot survive in the big leagues pitching the way he did today.
-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at DRaysBay and the Florida Marlins at ESPN’s SweetSpot site Marlins Daily. You can follow him on twitter at @FigureFilbert. Be sure to follow MLBdirt at @MLBdirt
Filed under: Digging Deep - Analysis Tagged: | Carlos Pena, Collin Balester, Desmond Jennings, Detroit Tigers, Drew Smyly, Elliot Johnson, Evan Longoria, Jose Lobaton, Justin Verlander, Tampa Bay Rays