The Process Report » Jake Odorizzi Struggles in Second Start

Jake Odorizzi Struggles in Second Start

Jake Odorizzi made an early, though not quick, exit from his second start with the Rays.

In Odorizzi’s first start with the Rays his weaknesses were apparent out of the gates. His second start began the same way: With a lengthy, exposing first inning of work. Odorizzi coerced the first two hitters of the game into two-strike counts only to see both hit line drives off fastballs—he snared one while the other went for a hit. The inning continued with a hit batsmen and another line-drive single, thus loading the bases with one out. To Odorizzi’s credit he escaped without allowing a run. Some of the credit belongs to Rob Brantly, however, as he hit a pop up on a poorly located fastball.

If anyone missed the game and wanted a one at-bat feel for how the day went, then check out Jordan Brown’s marathon battle in the second inning. Perhaps a more pressing matter is explaining who Brown is: An organizational soldier with minimal big-league experience, who is in the majors due to injuries. Odorizzi locked Brown into a 1-2 count and retired him on a 2-2 groundout. Unfortunately 10 pitches separated those two outcomes, including nine foul balls. Sometimes inferior hitters get the best of their superiors. That’s how baseball works. But it remained discouraging to see Odorizzi struggle to retire Brown.

This is a good time to introduce some unsurprising tidbits. Odorizzi threw 39 of his 99 pitches in two-strike counts. Sixteen of his 27 foul balls against came with two strikes. Of the 10 batters who reached base against him, five did so from two-strike pitches, including the hit batsmen and the walker. It wasn’t just the lack of an outpitch that plagued Odorizzi. The shaky fastball command showed up, too. He threw the pitch up in the zone too much, and all three extra-base hits came on heaters that caught too much of the plate. Odorizzi’s inability to end at-bats in a timely manner and avoid the heart of the plate with his fastball limited him to a four-inning outing.

Despite the struggles there were some positives worth noting. Often a pitcher’s defense is a lot like air: You don’t notice it until it’s not there. Not with Odorizzi. His athleticism is undeniable. He showed it off by making two nice reactionary plays on line drives back up the middle: The aforementioned snag and a sound recovery on another. He also showed the wherewithal to cover first base when necessary. Odorizzi showed some wits on the mound as well. Take his first-inning at-bat against Marcell Ozuna as an example. Ozuna, who has the reputation for being a hacker, saw four pitches, all changeups. (It’s worth noting Ozuna singled.)

The other big positives are how Odorizzi threw strikes and battled through a tough start. Still, there’s no two ways about it, this was a disappointing performance for a number of reasons. The Rays handpicked the Marlins for Odorizzi, and for good reason. Miami’s lineup is the worst in baseball across the slash line stats. They entered this game with one active hitter who owned an OPS+ of 100 or more. Monday’s Marlins lineup included five hitters with OPS+ of 70 or below. Lasting fewer than five innings against a team that doesn’t hit for average, walk, or hit for power is unacceptable. The quality of the start worsens when other factors, like the lead and the quality of the bullpen, are considered.

Of course there’s no need to rail too hard against a 23-year-old making his fourth major league start. It just shows that as talented as Odorizzi and the other Durham pitchers are, they might not be able to translate that talent into big-league success right away.

Stats courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info



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