Mazzaro’s Debut

This afternoon, we look at Antonio Bastardo’s major league debut. He wasn’t the only one making his first trip to a major league mound last night, though. Oakland debuted yet another young starter, giving a look to Vin Mazzaro, and like with Bastardo, the high level results were excellent – 6 1/3 shutout innings leading to his first major league win. However, let’s get beyond the results and look at how Mazzaro pitched using some graphs courtesy of Brooks Baseball.

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In contrast to Bastardo, Mazzaro’s chart is a virtual rainbow, with the five different colors representing a varied arsenal of pitches that he threw at the White Sox. He threw both a two seam and four seam fastball, a change-up, a slider, and a curve. To better see the variation of movement and speed that he threw, here’s a graph of his pitches by vertical movement and speed.

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On the right side, you see fastballs from 90-95 MPH and varying amounts of movement. Then, the slider and change-up are both in the 83-88 MPH range, while the curve hangs out from 79-82. He definitely gave the White Sox a lot of different looks.

However, unlike pitchers who do it intentionally, some of Mazzaro’s variation looks to be more fatigue than keeping hitters off balance. Check out his velocity timeline.

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The fastball sat around 94 for the first 25 pitches before moving into the 92 range for the middle 50 and then dropping off to just over 90 for the final 25 pitches. So, it’d be a bit of an overstatement to say that Mazzaro effectively pitched 89-95 with his fastball. He was a power pitcher early, but that didn’t last too long.

If you go back and look at the strike zone plot, you’ll see that, like Bastardo, he wasn’t really attacking the lower part of the zone, nor was he throwing a ton of strikes. He did a good job of keeping his change-up down, but the fastballs are mostly middle-up, which is why he too gave up 10 fly balls last night. Now, Mazzaro’s shown some pretty significant groundball ability in the minors, so it’s likely that nerves just cost him some fastball command last night. His fastball definitely has more sink to it than Bastardo’s does, but his performance last night shows why command is so important – even with a diving fastball, if you leave it up in the zone, it’s going to get hit in the air.

Thankfully for Mazzaro, the White Sox can’t hit, and they really can’t hit right-handed pitching. So, despite issuing four walks and getting just a single strikeout, Mazzaro was able to keep the White Sox off the board by letting some meager hitters get themselves out. He showed a better variation of pitches than Bastardo did, but didn’t flash anything resembling an out pitch, which has been the knock against his prospect status at each step up the ladder.

At the end of the night, both rookies had to be thrilled to get victories in their first major league starts. Both of them, however, have significant adjustments to make if they’re going to continue to be successful in the major leagues.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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JD
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JD
7 years 26 days ago

Dave, I think you make a faulty assumption concerning Mazzaro’s fatigue. It looked a lot more like Mazzaro was overthrowing in the first inning or two. That could explain his velocity for the first 25 pitches, and then he started to calm down some and settled into a much more realistic range of pitch speeds.

I really don’t think Mazzaro has as many adjustments to make as you suggest. He looked better than the peripheral numbers would suggest, and I think those peripherals will improve.

Bizarro Quinn
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Bizarro Quinn
7 years 26 days ago

Mazzaro, Mazzaro! I love you, Mazzaro!

WillClark4HOF
Guest
7 years 25 days ago

I think it would be helpful to change the graph type on the velocity by pitch number chart. Instead of using a line graph, switching to the color-code point style would allow us to see how each pitch type fared as the game progressed (you could even include trendlines by pitch type). It would also be easier to see if pitch selection changed as his outing wore on. Finally, would it be possible to put inning dividers on the graph? Perhaps velocity dropped after an especially long inning, or after a stretch that included a surprising number of breaking balls.

Dan Brooks
Guest
7 years 25 days ago
WillClark4HOF
Guest
7 years 25 days ago

Fantastic, Dan. That’s precisely what I was looking for.

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