Alex Cobb’s Awkward, Bizarre, and Incredible Start | The Process Report

Alex Cobb’s Awkward, Bizarre, and Incredible Start

On the strength of a four-run seventh inning, the Rays beat the Padres 6-3 on Friday night. Ben Zobrist and Ryan Roberts each provided two-run singles in the frame. Fill-in leadoff hitter, Matt Joyce, and Evan Longoria each contributed two hits on the evening as well. Josh Lueke, Jake McGee, Joel Peralta, and Fernando Rodney combined to shutout San Diego in their relief efforts. That all seems normal enough. Meanwhile, Alex Cobb‘s start was anything but normal.

Cobb, not known for strikeouts, became the first pitcher in Major League Baseball history to record 13 strikeouts – a career-high – in fewer than five innings. He also became the first pitcher in Rays’ history to record nine punchouts in his first three innings of work. His line final line included: 4 2/3 innings pitched, five hits, three runs, two walks, two home runs, a hit batter, a balk, a wild pitch, and 13 strikeouts.

Unfortunately, Cobb’s pitch count got the best of him. He was removed after 117 pitches, marking the first time a Tampa Bay starter has failed to complete at least five innings in a start this season. “[Taking him out] was just a matter of what you think is the right thing to do in that moment” said Rays’ manager Joe Maddon. “To have him injure himself because he’s going to throw 125 pitches in five innings, that’d be on me, so you have to be careful.” “His career is way too important to him and his family and to us, so that was it.” Maddon also used the words awkward, bizarre, and incredible to describe the start. All are fitting.

The majority of Cobb’s 117 pitches were his split-fingered changeup. He threw it a whopping 49 times; however, that is not the most time he has thrown in in a game (53). He had impeccable command of the off-speed pitch located arm-side and down.

Of the 49 split-changes he threw, 35 went for a strike. This includes an incredible 21 whiffs on 35 swings. Padres’ manager Bud Black said “it was one of those things where we knew it was coming and we couldn’t hit it. That’s how good it was.”

In terms of sequencing, Cobb kept the process rather simple. He used his fastball and curveball early on and the off-speed for the kill. He registered 11 of his 13 strikeouts with the pitch. “He just threw split-finger after split-finger after split-finger, and really that’s all he needed” said Padres’ third baseman Chase Headley. “Tip your cap, guy threw a great game.”

Cobb’s stuff was very good, but could it have been too good?  “I’m going to make the call and say that his stuff was too good” teammate Ryan Roberts said after the game. “His stuff was moving so much, that they just kept foul ball, foul ball, foul ball.” Roberts is correct. The foul ball turned out to be downfall for Cobb. The Padres put a hurt on his pitch count with 27 foul balls including 13 off the split-finger. That said, perhaps in a way, the increased number of fouls helped illustrate the ill-timed swings caused by Cobb’s pitches and location.

Despite the strange stat-line produced by Cobb, the most important number from Friday was the final score: 6-3. The Rays won their third game in a row and have a chance to reach .500 with another win on Saturday.

Data and visuals courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info.



One Comment

  1. […] for the 12th time. All while achieving a double-digit strikeout total for the first time since his outing against the Padres four months […]

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