Mr. Never Misses a Bat

A few days I wrote about Charlie Morton — the Pirates’ young starter with ethereal velocity who had been knocked around quite a bit despite not walking anyone and fanning a good number. Well, meet Mitch Talbot. So far, Talbot is the anti-Morton. In two starts, he’s tallied 14 innings, three strikeouts, five walks, and an ERA in the low-3s.

The Indians acquired Talbot over the off-season from the Tampa Bay Rays for Kelly Shoppach. For years Talbot slaved in Triple-A, waiting for a job to open up in the Tampa rotation without much avail. He simply entered the organization at the wrong point in time, a year earlier and who knows what the book on Talbot would be. Here are his lines from those three separate stints in Triple-A Durham:

2007: 161 IP, 6.93 K/9, 3.30 BB/9, 4.00 FIP
2008: 161 IP, 7.88 K/9, 1.96 BB/9, 3.03 FIP
2009: 54.1 IP, 6.63 K/9, 2.98 BB/9, 3.55 FIP

Talbot battled injuries in 2009, but otherwise it’s easy to see why the Indians thought he could help their rotation now, and as such, selected him as the player in the trade rather than the younger Joseph Cruz. Anyhow, Talbot’s fastball sits in the low-90s, he tosses a cutter, and he throws a change-up that was named the best in the Rays (and before being traded to Tampa Bay) and Astros’ system for something like four years running.

It’s hard to get worked up over 14 innings, but boy, Talbot’s not missing any bats to date. A 2% swinging strike rate is absurdly low and while Talbot’s 55% GB rate is nice, he was never known to be that much of a groundball pitcher. He’s pitching like Nick Blackburn right now, except Blackburn has nearly 6% swinging strikes for his career.

Talbot has thrown a combined 58 cutters and sliders without a single whiff. Considering those two pitches are making up nearly 30% of his total pitches thrown, and that another 48% is devoted to his four-seam fastball (holder of a horrifying 3.1% whiff rate), it’s really pretty impressive that Talbot has found any success through two starts.

Don’t expect the ERA to maintain its shine if his stuff continues to show none of its own.

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9 Responses to “Mr. Never Misses a Bat”

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  1. snapper says:

    What is the sample size for things like contact rate and GB rate to be significant?

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  2. JK says:

    Actually, he is a GB pitcher, generally around 54% in his minor league career. And he is known to pitch to induce gbs. I’m not sure why the articles on this site are not properly researched. I can read cbs if I want recommendations that are not based on actual fact.

    Talbot had about a 6.5 k/9 in the spring, so he can get some ks. With a good gb%, he could succeed with that level of ks. The lack of ks is concerning of course, but it’s only 14 innings and not surprising that a pitcher with relatively little mlb experience needs time to adjust.

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  3. Chris says:

    His first start was poor as he walked 5 and struck out only 1. His second start though was a different story, yeah the K’s weren’t impressive but he walked 0 and struck out 2. Not to mention he’s only allowed 12 hits which many other and better pitchers can’t say right now (ahem! Verlander! 17 IP 18 H?!)

    Since our dear friend here hasn’t pitched more than 10 innings in his MLB career until this season, lets give the guy a break and let him get some big league experience. He’ll get there.

    I really don’t get why Fangraphs and Rotographs authors continue to hate on him so much.

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  4. JK says:

    Talbot wins again, giving up 2 hits in 6 innings, no earned runs, with 11 gb outs. Hmmm, maybe he doesn’t suck. Of course, that doesn’t fit with the snarky commentary, but why worry about the actual results.

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    • Chris says:

      Dont forget that he’s only walked 3 batters in his last 15 IP. Control problems? I don’t see any problems in the last two outings.

      Fangraphs authors are always quick to state ‘don’t judge too harshly given SSS!’, well, Mr Anderson seems to have judged a little early imo, and given Talbot’s good minor league numbers I’m willing to say that he has a chance to be a decent starter.

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      • JK says:

        Exactly. He’s not going to win the cy young, but he’s got a chance to be a rosterable back end starter, which has value. I just wish the writers would do the research better, since people rely upon these articles to be accurate.

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  5. JC says:

    “This time it’s different”

    But it never is.

    Recent examples include:

    – internet stocks in the 90’s
    – Real Estate in 2007
    – Brian Bannister

    Talbot’s weaknesses are and tendencies are going to be scouted out, and he is going to start getting lit up. After last night’s start, his K/9 is sitting at 2.39. If he wants to survive in the majors as a starter, he has to start missing some bats.

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    • Chris says:

      The same could happen if he was averaging 10 K/9, all I’m saying is that his minor league numbers support him being a decent pitcher, I’m not saying he’s going to keep up this start. Plenty of pitchers have made careers on pitching to contact vs striking out batters.

      Not to mention but his career minor league line shows him at 3.79 ERA, 1.299 WHIP, 2.6 BB/9 and 7.4 K/9. If everything regresses to career norms like people are so fond of spewing out on this site then the guy will be just fine. If not he’s a more than serviceable contact pitcher for now.

      He’s no stud, but he doesn’t have to be. Not every one needs to be a Lincecum, Jimenez, Hernandez or a Halladay to be a rosterable starting pitcher.

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      • JC says:

        I wasn’t implying that Talbot cannot make that adjustment and bump his K/9 to something more reasonable like 5.0 or 6.0. What I am saying is that the odds are very long on him getting away with letting so many guys put the ball in play at the MLB level. I’m not saying he cannot adjust, but the adjustment period is coming, and when it hits you are not going to want him anywhere near your fantasy roster.

        Recent successful groundballers like Carmona and Chien Ming Wang struck out 5.0/9 in their best seasons. That’s twice the rate that Talbot is currently at.

        Has any starting pitcher in the modern era made a career of doing what Talbot is doing? The only guy that immediately springs to mind is Tommy John in the 1980’s.

        Care to name anyone else?

        Let’s set the bar low. I am looking for a league average ERA for 180 IP with a K/9 < 3.0.

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