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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.