Jacob Turner and the Lost Fastball

The scouts were filling up the press box Tuesday night in Detroit. Two prospects took the mound for the Angels and the Tigers, Garrett Richards and Jacob Turner, with each presenting a possible trade chip as we approach the July 31st trade deadline. Richards was impressive, hurling seven shutout innings. Turner, on the other hand, couldn’t make it out of the third inning, allowing seven runs on six hits, two walks, and three home runs.

Turner entered the 2012 season as the Tigers’ top prospect after blazing through Double-A (3.48 ERA, 3.68 FIP in 113.2 innings) at just 20 years old. He has had similar success at Triple-A in 2012, allowing a 3.16 ERA and 3.58 FIP in 62.2 innings. It all starts with the fastball for Turner, a pitch he can get up to 94-95 MPH and command well according to our own Marc Hulet. That command completely disappeared Tuesday night, leaving Turner and the Tigers hung high and dry by the Angels by the third inning.

Turner threw 22 fastballs to Angels hitters, and the results were horrible: eight balls, four called strikes, four fouls, one groundout, two singles, and three home runs. Turner was either well outside the zone or well inside it — there was no working of the corners to be found:

One can forgive turner on one of the worst ball calls of all time (see also here), but more often than not Turner was missing in all the wrong places. When he went outside the strikezone it typically wasn’t close; when he went inside it he clustered right down the middle of the plate.

Control was not the issue for Turner — 68% of his fastballs went for strikes. This is a perfect of illustration of what happens when control exists but command departs. Throwing a strike turns in to a cookie down the middle; trying to nibble turns into an obvious ball six inches off the corner. Turner has exhibited excellent command his entire minor league career, as partially shown by his ability to suppress home runs — his highest HR/9 in any minor league stint is 0.71 in 17 starts at Double-A in 2011.

In 19.2 major league innings, Turner has now allowed six home runs, three times as many as he’s allowed in 62.2 innings at the Triple-A level this season. Turner’s stuff and minor league performance keeps him a top prospect — 19.2 innings don’t kill a career, especially for someone who just reached legal drinking age this May — but his command must translate before the Tigers can even think about him contributing at the major league level.

PITCHf/x data from Brooks Baseball




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18 Responses to “Jacob Turner and the Lost Fastball”

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  1. James says:

    I’d be interested to see video or a .gif of that horrible ball call.

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    • bada bing says:

      Obviously that call didn’t affect the game, but how could anyone call that a ball? It’s a freakin fastball down the middle of the plate, the meatiest of the meatballs.

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      • Ryan says:

        I don’t know how you can say it didn’t necessarily affect his pitch choice/location after that call. Not sure when it happened, though.

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      • bada bing says:

        I didn’t say that it didn’t affect his pitch location after the call, but I did say that it didn’t affect the game. I stand by that. The Tigers lost 13-0.

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  2. Cory says:

    Turner’s 0-2 fastball to Trumbo is the worst pitch I’ve ever seen in my life. All me and my friend could do was laugh at that pitch.

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  3. jesse says:

    The Braves radio broadcast has a habit of saying ‘right down the middle… for ball four’ and I chuckle everytime.

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  4. Mario Mendoza of commenters says:

    “one of the worst ball calls of all time”

    You know you have to back a statement like that up! I see a fun article in this.

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    • Will says:

      Look at the graph, there is a pitch almost perfectly down the middle called a ball.

      backed up.

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      • Mario Mendoza of commenters says:

        No I mean the “of all time” part. It would be fun to see if there has ever been a pitch closer to dead center called a ball before.

        It would be even more fun to see GIFs of those pitches.

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  5. mit nayr says:

    Since when do scouts sit in the press box…perhaps they ate their pregame meals in there?

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  6. Ron says:

    Another young pitcher the Tigers rushed, Porcello doesn’t have an out pitch, struggles high whip, Oliver looked like a deer in headlights, and this youngster Turner had his FB all right at AAA , so does he get stage fright on the big stage too, that is at the young age of 20?
    Tigers talent evaluators, please let these kids develop, your rush job all these years with pitchers doesn’t seem to work most always.
    and try drafting some position players that have higher ceilings, and better pitch recognition/plate discipline.

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    • Steve says:

      This was what, Turner’s 4th (spot) start in the majors over two years? Complain about Rick if you’d like, but it’s not like Turner’s been thrust into the rotation

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    • rea says:

      It’s perfectly appropriate to give a young prospect a couple of spot starts in the majors. Let the major league coaching staff see him pitch and give him a glimpse of the big time.

      It would be comparable to Porcello only if Turner had won a spot in the Tigers’ starting rotation out of spring training. And go look at Porcello’s performance his rookie year and tell me how you keep that in the minors.

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    • ThePartyBird says:

      The problem with Porcello was not that he was rushed. It was that somebody turned a kid with a mid-90s fastball and a hammer curve into a sinkerballer.

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  7. Bill K. says:

    I am sure my Cubbies will trade for Turner any day now. Once the rose came off the bloom we were destined to get him.

    Regarding the ball call, it appears Avila might have played a role:

    http://rooftopreport.com/2012/07/19/poking-jacob-turner/

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  8. Taylor06 says:

    Heard Keith Law say his FB velo is down a lot.

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  9. Jack says:

    Ive seem Turner 4-5 times over the past couple of years and never been impressed with either his fastball not breaking pitches. What was I missing?

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