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Rookie sensation Tony Cingrani has been lights out since he’s filled in for an injured Johnny Cueto, allowing 3 ERs in his first 12 innings with 17 strikeouts.  But with those dominant outings at Miami and at home against the Chicago Cubs, it’s not exactly like he was blowing away elite offenses.

This time out on a Sunday afternoon, Tony C would be facing one of baseball’s most dynamic lineups on the road.  Relying very heavily on his power fastball, it’s been debated how long Cingrani could have success in the Majors, so I decided to tune in to his start yesterday and break down the rookie’s third career start:

First Inning: Cingrani’s first pitch is a 92-MPH low and in to Denard Span.  The tall lefty has 2 runs of support, and throws another 92-MPH heater over for a strike.  He hits the same spot, maybe a shade in, to get up 1-2, then is high at 94-MPH.  He sticks with the fastball and Span lines it fairly hard but it’s right to Xavier Paul, 1 down.  Cingrani is in there and gets fouled off, then is outside, 1-1 to Danny Espinosa, then shows his first breaking pitch, a hard, biting curveball at 78-MPH to get a swing-and-miss, 1-2.  He misses low and and in, then low and in again, to fall back to a full count.  He then rears back and blows a 94-MPH fastball by Espinosa swinging, right down the middle.  That might be a pitch Major League hitters can adjust to if it stays right down Broadway.  Cingrani bounces the first one to Bryce Harper, then paints the outside corner with a 95-MPH fastball, 1-1.  Cingrani again at 95 gets Harper to foul one off the fists, then pounds it back inside at 95, 2-2.  Man, that fastball is unreal.  Then he again paints the outside corner at 96-MPH (yes 96!) in a perfect location and the ump doesn’t give him the call.  That was right there, I think in Cincy he gets that called strike three.  Cingrani took a step to the dugout too, but I don’t blame him, that was a strike.  The next pitch is again on the fists, and Harper grounds out weakly to second, inning over.

Second Inning: Picking up another run of support and protecting a 3-0 lead, Cingrani starts Jayson Werth with a 91-MPH fastball just in there, 0-1.  Again in there on the outside corner, 0-2, then 94-MPH at the letters Werth fouls back.  Cingrani misses inside, then low, then a 93-MPH fastball is popped out to shallow right.  That one probably got a tad too much of the plate, but he gets away with it.  Cingrani misses a tad low and inside to Ian Desmond, 1-0, then rolls a curveball way outside, 2-0.  Needs to find that curveball again.  Cingrani paints the outside corner, 2-1, then low, then paints that outside corner again and Desmond swings through it, 3-2.  Cingrani then blows a 93-MPH fastball chest high through a swinging Desmond, two down, two Ks.  Cingrani blows one past LaRoche swinging, then an incredible 77-MPH curveball gets LaRoche way out in front, 0-2.  Cingrani then pounds the inside corner at 94 and gets the backwards K, six up six down.

Third Inning: Cingrani starts the third with a 92-MPH fastball to Anthony Rendon low and inside, then perfect on the outside lower corner, 1-1.  Cingrani then paints the inside corner, but doesn’t get the call, man, he can paint.  He’s again on the outside corner, then the next one is lined out to center, one down.  Cingrani hits the outside corner against Kurt Suzuki, 0-1, then way outside, 1-1.  A curveball is low, still haven’t seen too many of those, then a fastball is popped up and Brandon Phillips makes a great catch, two down.  Cingrani now gets opposing pitcher Ross Detwiler and gets a strike in 0-1, then again, 0-2.  He misses high, 1-2, then low, 2-2, then blows a 91-MPH fastball by him, four Ks, through 3 perfect.

Fourth Inning: The first pitch of the 4th is a fastball high and tight to Span, then Span fouls one off 1-1.  A 76-MPH curveball sweeps across the zone and dots the outside lower edge, 1-2.  What a pitch.  Then it’s another curveball at 78-MPH that gets Span missing, but it bounces out of the reach of catcher Corky Miller, and it’s the first baserunner for the Nationals, but another strikeout for Cingrani.  Miller probably should’ve had that one.  Cingrani misses low to Espinosa, then checks Span twice.  Last game out he allowed Alfonso Soriano to steal second and third base, so he is still working on holding runners.  Cingrani then misses, then a 1-1 change-up is lined opposite field for a double.  Span is held at third, runners at second and third with no outs.  I think that was Cingrani’s first change-up, and might be his last.  Didn’t look like it did much and stayed high in the zone.  Big matchup here for Cingrani against Harper, and he gets a fastball over at 95, strike one.  Then Harper bunts the next one foul, (wow, odd to see that) and it’s 0-2.  Then the next pitch is a 95-MPH fastball at the eyes, and Harper can’t keep himself from swinging and Cingrani made him look silly for another strikeout, his 6th.  Werth gets a 96-MPH fastball for a strike, then Cingrani is low on two straight, 2-1.  Cingrani is low again, and finds himself behind 3-1.  Cingrani goes to another fastball that stays a tad too high and tight, and he loses Werth and the bases are loaded.  Cingrani paints the outside corner at 95 to Desmond, 0-1.  What a pitch.  Then it’s 96-MPH boring down and in for a swing-and-miss, 0-2.  Cingrani paints high and tight that misses, 1-2, then blows Desmond away at 94-MPH, 7 Ks.  With two outs that’s three strikeouts in the inning.  At 94-MPH, Cingrani keeps it on the black, and gets strike one to LaRoche.  Outside 1-1, then LaRoche fouls it to left, 1-2, then again fouls one, then Cingrani paints that outside corner at 96-MPH for strike three looking, four strikeouts in the inning!  Unreal.

Fifth Inning: At 70 pitches, Cingrani starts the fifth with a fastball high and outside, then high again, 2-0 to Rendon.  In there 2-1, then Rendon fouls one back, 2-2, then paints inside but too far, 3-2.  The payoff pitch is a fastball right down the middle and Rendon shoots a single to left.  Cingrani checks on Rendon with a little bit of an awkward move to first, then gets strike one on Suzuki.  Strike two is in there, this time at 89-MPH with the fastball, wow, he mixes up speeds.  The 0-2 pitch is a fastball high in the zone at 92-MPH that Suzuki hits hard but it’s caught by Choo on the run, two down.  Cingrani misses to pinch hitter Tyler Moore, then one is fouled, 1-1.  Cingrani misses high, then paints the outside corner at 89-MPH, 2-2.  Cingrani moves it a shade further out and Moore swings late at a 92-MPH fastball, 9 Ks.  Span gets a 91-MPH fastball for a strike, then the next is tipped foul.  Cingrani is high, 1-2, then a curveball sweeping 11-5 at 77-MPH is barely laid off of, 2-2.  Nice pitch there.  Another fastball is fouled, then a 90-MPH fastball is inside, 3-2.  Span fights another off, then a fastball is lined to left, and Xavier Paul drops it, but recovers and throws out Rendon trying to score from first, and gets him by a mile.  The Nationals must be thinking that would be their best shot to score on Cingrani!

Sixth Inning: At 92 pitches, Cingrani is low to Espinosa 1-0 then paints the outside corner 1-1.  An absolutely tremendous curveball breaking that 10-4/11-5 angle at 76-MPH is swung through, 1-2.  Just a great looking curveball.  Cingrani goes to it again and it’s low, then a fastball is popped to second, 1 down.  Cingrani is low, 1-0, then a change-up on the outer edge gets Harper to swing and miss, 1-1.  I think only his second change-up and it was much better that time.  Cingrani is barely outside, 2-1, then again that change-up again on the outer edge is fouled off, 2-2. Then another one of those great curveballs barely dips low, and the 3-2 is a 95-MPH fastball right at the knees and 10 Ks, that one looking.  Harper knew it too, what a pitch.  Werth fouls the first one off, then a fastball outside on the outer corner works it 0-2.  A great curveball almost gets Werth to offer but it’s 1-2, then a 95-MPH fastball is fouled off.  Still hitting the mid-90s.  Outside 2-2, then another fouled, then a fastball at 93-MPH perfectly placed on the outer lower corner gets Werth to swing and miss and on 110 pitches and notching his 11th strikeout, Cingrani’s masterful gem comes to an end.

Final Line: W  6.0 IP  110 Pitches  2 Hits  1 Walk  0 Earned Runs  11 Ks

Final Analysis:  Easily the best pitcher profile outing all year.  Cingrani does indeed rely on that fastball, but he varies it from 89-MPH all the way to 96!  I believe he knows how to make his fastball more than just one pitch, so he’s not throwing the same fastball every time.  The curveball was working as well, staying low in the zone with consistent movement.  The first change-up he threw was a hanger that got laced for a double, but the other times he went to it, both in the Harper at-bat in the 6th, it looked solid as well.  Cingrani now has an unreal 28:4 K:BB ratio, and a 20:1 ratio in the last two.  Suffice to say, the control is there.

Ever since I watched Cingrani’s debut, I questioned why scouts argue against Cingrani’s future success in the Majors because he relies on “deception.”  They compare him to guys like Mike Fiers or Josh Collmenter, conveniently lumping guys with “deception” as if every pitcher’s deception is the same and will always get figured out.  Jered Weaver relies on “deception” and was doing fine until he cracked his elbow!  And Cingrani’s stuff is not just skating by with “deception” it’s a fastball blowing hitters away and a nasty curveball to work off it.  Maybe it was just on in yesterday’s outing – scouts have not praised it in the Minors – but it looked fantastic against the Nats.

Cingrani is surely snatched up in all competitive leagues, but if for some reason he’s out there he’s an obvious must own.  I don’t think the stuff is a concern at all; the only concerns are what the Reds will do when Cueto returns, holding baserunners, and a slight knock with his high pitch counts. I, along with probably everyone else at this point (except maybe Mike Leake), are hoping he takes Leake’s rotation spot and pitches through the whole year.  When you’re striking out as many guys as Cingrani, the pitch counts will get up there, so I don’t think it’s a concern for fantasy as you want those Ks even if it costs you maybe a win at some point.  And it’s not as big a concern holding runners when you allow so few!  It will be interesting to see what the Reds do when Cueto is back, but Cingrani is a pitcher you start no matter what while he’s starting.