It’s said that pitchers are ahead of hitters this early in the season. Maybe it’s the cold, maybe it’s the fact that they report to spring training camps a week earlier, or maybe it’s something completely different.
Regardless, Wednesday night’s contests featured some pretty amazing pitching performances. Here’s a breakdown of the top five:
5. Jameson Taillon
In many ways, the contest between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox set the tone for the night, with an amazing pitching duel. And 25-year-old right-hander Jameson Taillon held his own against a more storied ace – but we’ll get to his opponent later.
Taillon was able to stymie a tough Red Sox lineup despite getting just seven whiffs against the disciplined hitters. The young mainstay of the Pirates’ rotation allowed just one extra-base hit during his seven innings – a double to Sandy Leon. The Red Sox got to Taillon by getting three free passes though.
4. Jacob deGrom
Jacob deGrom had the dubious honor Wednesday evening of facing off against former teammate Bartolo Colon. In Colon’s return to Citi Field in his new Atlanta Braves uniform though, it was deGrom who stole the show.
Of the 12 pitches tracked by Statcast that the Braves put into play against deGrom, just two had an exit velocity over 100 mph – a double from Matt Kemp and a groundout from Freddie Freeman. If the New York Mets are going to make the postseason, it will be thanks to pitching performances like this, because their lineup was only able to give deGrom one run of support in the extra-innings affair.
3. Dylan Bundy
Over Dylan Bundy‘s short career, the 24-year-old has been a bit of an enigma, with his relevance hinging heavily on his health. In 2016, Bundy managed just 109 2/3 innings of work and put up roughly league-average numbers.
In Wednesday night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays though, Bundy showed impressive capabilities. Bundy unleashed his changeup with impunity. Of the 37 changeups Bundy let fly, 14 were whiffed on by Jays hitters, while only one fell for a hit. If Bundy’s offspeed stuff can continue to dominate like that, we should get used to seeing eight-strikeout nights from the young right-hander.
2. Brandon Finnegan
Brandon Finnegan was a completely different pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds between the first and second halves of the 2016 season. In the opening half of last year, Finnegan had a 4.71 ERA, 16.6 percent strikeout rate, and 12 percent walk rate. In the second half though, the 23-year-old left-hander had a 2.93 ERA with a 24.6 percent strikeout rate and 10.6 percent walk rate.
Finnegan opened up his 2017 conquest looking like the second half was no anomaly. Technically, by Bill James’ Game Score, Finnegan’s performance Wednesday night was better than the first-place pitcher on this list. However, Finnegan had the added benefit of facing the Philadelphia Phillies. Even against the Phillies though, allowing two baserunners is immensely impressive, and any time you retire 19 consecutive batters, you definitely turn some heads.
1. Chris Sale
Over seven innings of work, Sale allowed just five baserunners – none of whom advanced beyond first base. Sale looks like he’s continuing to dial back his velocity in his new threads, throwing just three four-seam fastballs according to Baseball Savant‘s pitch classifications. Instead, Sale got 13 whiffs shared between his two-seamer, slider, and changeup.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)