Oh man, did the Crew need that win yesterday! Even up 11-1, I thought K Rod might blow the lead. The way things have gone…
But it’s not all about me and the Brewers! At least, that’s what the girlfriend keeps telling me… Yesterday, Wily Peralta showed some exceptional stuff in easily the biggest game of 2014 for Milwaukee, but the day before, high-profile prospect Jimmy Nelson looked to make a statement as the newly entrenched starter.
Anddddddddd… It didn’t go so hot.
Sporting absolutely stupid numbers in the PCL (1.46 ERA 0.92 WHIP 114 K in 111 IP), Nelson also shined in his 2014 debut, a 5.2 inning spot start allowing no runs on 8 base runners with 6 Ks for a W. But the mightily cold Brewers squared off against the red hot Redbirds to spoil his encore. How much was his atrocious start impacted by wrong guy, wrong place syndrome? Should you still be holding on if you picked him up? I decided to take an uncomfortable (for me) walk down memory lane to really break down how Nelson looked pitch-by-pitch:
First Inning: Big Jimmy’s first pitch is a 94 MPH fastball in there to Matt Carpenter. Nelson is a tall guy, with a top-down release, but his second pitch is a fastball in the same exact spot at 94 as well and Carpenter lines up the middle for a hard-hit single. Nelson is high to Kolten Wong, looked like he lost his footing a little bit there, then a great change-up gets a swing and miss, 1-1.
That change-up was high, but Wong guessed fastball and was hacking. Another high fastball is hit foul, then a perfect slider at 86 on the inner half of the plate is swung over and missed for Nelson’s first K.
Command of that pitch will make him successful. Matt Holliday, aka the Brewers killer, has a fastball run up towards his arms and it nips him. Hey, Holiday, maybe lay off the bench press then! Runners on first and second, and Matt Adams swings at the first fastball at the knees and he’s too far under it for a flyout to center. Two outs, and Nelson spins a decent slider in there for strike one on Jhonny Peralta, then fastball up and in gets on his fists, but Peralta gets a flare single to center for an RBI. Unlucky there. Runners at first and second again and down a run early and Nelson starts Oscar Taveras with a fastball on the outer half and it’s slashed foul. Man, the Cards are first-pitch hacking! The 0-1 is a hanging slider that is way high and outside and saved by Jonathan Lucroy from being a wild pitch. Man, that looked awful. Another outside fastball is slashed foul, hanging slider taken high, then another rolling hanging slider is grounded to Scooter Gennett, but he scoots it for an error. While the inning should be over, that still wasn’t a good pitch. He hung all three sliders that at bat. Out comes Rick Kranitz for a quick talk, then first-pitch fastball to Tony Cruz is six feet too high and two feet too far in ala Charlie Sheen in Spring Training. Lucroy made another great catch on that horrible pitch, then the 1-0 is a fastball right down the middle and lined for a 2-RBI single. On the throw, Taveras is tagged out at third to end the inning.
Second Inning: So down 0-3 against Adam Wainwright, Nelson really needs to bear down even with two of those runs unearned. First-pitch fastball is down to Jon Jay, 92 is outside, 94 is low, 3-0. A good fastball with sink at 93 is in there, then 92 off the outside of the plate is grounded up the middle, and backup SS Jeff Bianchi makes a ridiculous play to slide and pop up and get him out. Web Gem! Fastball is in there to Wainwright, a hanging slider is way high and tight, 1-1. And again, Nelson seemed to almost fall over towards first place after releasing the pitch. Something is weird with his footing. Fastball on the inner half is grounded to third, two down. Nelson needs a quick inning. Carpenter takes low, slider hangs high, and that’s the past 6-7 sliders that have been hung. 2-0 fastball is in there, slider with some bite and his best in a while goes low and inside, and the 3-1 fastball looked perfect on the lower outside black but doesn’t get the call for a walk. I think a vet gets that call. The red hot Kolten Wong watches a fastball zip by him for strike one, then after two checks on Carpenter, Nelson throws a change-up right down the middle and it’s crushed for a two-run bomb.
No movement, no nothing. Awful. Nelson responds with a fastball way up and in on Holliday, and Nelson is out of sorts. A slider on the outer edge is swung over, fastball inside, then a high change-up is swung through and missed, 2-2. Guest commentator Gabe Kapler said it while I thought it, even though he got a swing and miss, that change-up was high and hittable. A good inside fastball – Nelson’s best pitch this at bat – is nipped foul, then a hanging slider that sorta fluttered high and on the hands is swung through for Nelson’s second K. Not a good pitch, but it ate him up.
Third Inning: Down 0-5 now, Nelson gets a first-pitch slider in there to Adams, hanging slider is way high and outside, a good fastball on the outer half gets swung through, 1-2. Nelson needs to live out there. A hanging high slider – yes hanging again – is hit foul, then that nice inside slider gets Adams to swing and miss, one down. That slider was very similar to that first GIF, with a little more downward movement. Peralta takes a fastball a smidge outside, fastball again outside tipped foul, 1-1. Nelson starting to command the fastball a little better. Yet another hanging slider at 86 is way high, and yet again Nelson stumbled on his landing foot. Something is wrong with his base. Then a fastball on the outside edge is reached for and hammered for a double. Cardinals can sit fastball right now, and adjust to hanging change-ups just fine. Taveras takes a hanging slider outside (I guess I only need to say “slider” right now, sheesh), fastball smashed foul, fastball high, and fastball again right down the middle is hit to short, two down. And this is just hard to watch, first-pitch fastball is four feet too high and two feet in for ball one on Cruz. Another near wild pitch. Rolling slider that didn’t do much is in there, the same high slider is nipped foul, 1-2 slider is way outside, fastball is way high, then a slider that was in the top half of the zone is hit oppo field for a two-out RBI double.
Nelson was able to get an off-speed over, but that is so hittable! And look at how in the past two GIFs Lucroy reaches up and over the plate… Fastball gets the call on the outside corner on Jay, fastball again just outside, then fastball again outside is slashed to left for a single. Cruz is held at third, and it’s another hard-hit base hit. Kranitz is out again, and Nelson gets a good slider in there to Wainwright 0-1, a good sinking fastball gets a swing and miss, 0-2. Might be his best consecutive pitches since the first. Slider is tapped foul, another hanging slider is too far inside and high and that was supposed to be low and outside. Such awful control. Fastball fouled off, another fastball on the hands fisted foul, then a good slider on the outer black is swung through to end the inning. Still, it took seven pitches to K Wainwright and Nelson looks terrible.
Fourth Inning: Still without a scoreless inning, Nelson is low and inside on Carpenter, fastball is in there, another fastball hits the outside corner, and a hanging slider that almost resembled a cutter at 86 on the hands is popped up, one out. Fastball outside, and this time it wasn’t as pronounced, but yet another stumble. Fastball even further outside, fastball in the zone fouled off, then a good slider with movement in the zone is topped over and grounded weakly to second, two down. Nelson desperately needs this next out. Holliday takes strike one, fastball on the hands breaks Holiday’s bat on his hands, 0-2. Then fastball just a tad high is swung through and missed, and Nelson gets a clean inning.
Fifth Inning: Hoping to build off the past inning’s success, Nelson is an inch inside on Adams, then bounces a slider, 2-0. That’s about 10 wild pitches so far, just all saved by Lucroy. Adams taps a low outside fastball foul, low inside fastball is hit foul, slider is pulled foul, hanging slider on the hands is popped up and just out of the reach of Mark Reynolds to stay alive, another high slider without too much bite is fouled back, still 2-2. Nelson doesn’t have any put away pitches right now. Fastball is a mile outside and Nelson stumbles again. Somebody get this guy new spikes! Slider right down the middle is fouled off, and the 10th pitch of the at-bat is… Guesses…? If you guessed hanging slider way out of the zone, you win the grand prize! Leadoff walk to a guy who had EIGHT WALKS on the YEAR! Fastball way inside on Peralta, another inside fastball fouled back, fastball in the same exact spot fouled off, and hanging slider with Nelson’s what… seventh stumble now? I’ve never seen a pitcher nearly fall over this many times. Fastball on the inside upper corner gets on Peralta’s hands for a pop up. Nelson still gets the out. Fastball high to Taveras, fastball on the outer edge fouled off, fastball in the same spot fouled off, fastball way outside, then fastball again right down the middle is rocketed up the middle for a single. And that’ll mercifully do it for Nelson, with both runners on base scoring.
Final Line: L 4.1 IP 98 Pitches (62 Strikes) 6 ER 8 Hits 2 Walks 5 K Gamescore: 22 Gamescore+: 35.2
Final Analysis: In a word, Nelson was… Pooptastic. It’s interesting his Gamescore+ came out so much higher than his true Gamescore. I haven’t done a Pitcher Profile on a start this bad, so maybe my stat needs a little tweak.
It all starts with Nelson’s fastball, sitting 92-94 with pretty good sink when on. He touched 95 a couple of times, but as we know, his control was awful. Then his main off-speed is the slider, which he had absolutely no feel for after allowing the first runs to score. When it was working, which was only a handful of times, it had good late and sharp break that could get Ks as in the second GIF. Off the slider is his change-up, which was awful this game after the first few batters. Wong’s 2-run shot was a ball I think I could’ve gotten a base hit on. And I look like Randy Johnson trying to bat when I’m at the batting cage.
So what to make of this start…? Well this was sort of a perfect storm game. Heavy hearts were going in with the the absolutely tragic news for Jean Segura. Kinda broke my heart and made this game seem frivolous at the time. Then to top that off you have an ice cold team losing 10 of 11, a red hot Cardinals team, a guy making only his second start of the year, and facing off against one of the best pitchers in the Majors. While it’s easy to say any of those factors threw him off, you also can’t make too many excuses. His mechanics were off the entire start, falling off towards first base and actually stumbling over several times. Here’s an example on the 1-1 pitch to Peralta in the 3rd:
I’ve never seen a pitcher almost fall over so frequently, and it was on both fastballs AND sliders no less! That led to all his pitches being up, and frankly his ball to strike ratio shocked me. His control was miserable. He walked Matt Adams. MATT ADAMS! It was Adams’ 9th walk on the season…
I didn’t give this game my full attention when live, and came into this profile thinking I’d still like Nelson and this was just an off game. I’m not so sure anymore. I almost want Marco Estrada back in the rotation and his historic home run rate. I also thought Nelson would easily crack my ranks (and he did in my first draft), but he’s way out now. Plus there’s suspicion that the Brewers are showcasing him as a trade chip. Well, the showcase failed! And if he is traded, he’s looking at more time in the Minors. There is a ton of weight to his daunting numbers in AAA (and there’s no way he could’ve put up his numbers looking like this, much less getting a call up while falling all over the mound), but more weight on the mess that was Saturday since it was in the show. Hopefully the All-Star break will do Nelson as much good as it does the Brewers and he can figure it out. Worth a hold if you desperately need some K upside in 12ers, or if you have a free roster spot. Even after the leadoff single, most of the 1st inning he looked pretty nasty. But afterwards was so bad, it has me moving on.
JB’s Updated Top 100 SP
(rankings based on 12-team Roto, and from this point to the end of season – green for risers, red for fallers)
Dropped Out: Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees (UCL, ugh… brutal), Marco Estrada, Milwaukee Brewers (“You’ve just been erased”), Justin Masterson, Cleveland Indians (yikes), Dan Straily, Chicago Cubs (ehhhh, still interested, but backing out of that one…), Dan Haren, Los Angeles Dodgers (no trust)
- I had to move a lot of guys down this week with injuries (and Tanaka out…). Pitchers starting around 50 turn into Buzz’s girlfriend… Woof!
- He only moved down 3, but a little worried about Zimmermann and the biceps. That said, he has a high WHIP for his normal standards with a .329 BABIP while on a huge K binge. Hopefully this doesn’t crop back up.
- Dear Cram It – wasn’t it 18+ wins with sub 3.75/1.25? Go Porcello, go!
- Dear Ron Swanson’s Stache – Quintana looked awesome at Fenway, with two horrible non-calls on full counts drawing walks both scoring. I owe you your next beer. That said, couldn’t quite get him to 40.
- I have no idea what to do with Mike Minor. When he’s off, like yet again at Chicago on Saturday, he gets pounded like Miley Cyrus at a pool party. I still think he’s a buy low, but the price better be damned cheap.
- How annoying have the Cubs been lately?! Tanner Roark had back-to-back Cub starts ruin his great run and the Braves starters got shelled. Chris Coghlan? Justin Ruggiano? This has got to be just a hot streak…
- LOVE what I’m seeing from Jesse Hahn. But can’t rank him too aggressively looking at ROS – an impending innings limit looms for a guy off TJ a few years back and without a lot of professional innings under his belt… The lowly Pads aren’t gonna stretch it.
- Another good start from Wade Miley. I’m moving him way up this week. More info in the notes from last week.
- I’m still huge on James Paxton. Now set for rehab starts, I think he can be a really surprising 2nd half asset.
Thoughts on Nelson and/or the ranks as we head into the break? Shoot your comments below and enjoy the All-Star Game!
Also – I’ll be at the AAA Home Run Derby tonight, scouting some AAA power bats, so I might be a little slow to comments this evening. But I’ll get to them afterwards!