Triston McKenzie won another start
I’ve never been a huge Triston McKenzie fan heading into this season. I’m not sure exactly what is or was exactly the problem with him in my brain. Could it be the frame that’s the issue, Mr. Sticks’ skinny arms and legs from childbirth can be unsettling. Perhaps the lack of miners’ workload due to injury was the issue or it could have been the fact that it seemed to wear out at the end of an already abridged 2020 that cast doubt on in my mind that he was going to be able to resist. the rigors of a workaholic in 2021. More than likely, it was bits of it all that made me wonder why he was so quickly and firmly inscribed as the fourth starting pitcher upon the release of Spring Training.
That does not mean that I am rooting against him, far from it. He’s a great kid with a great story and he’s part of my favorite team; what’s not to like But there was a tinge of confirmation bias as he struggled to get out of the door. The walk totals never went down and he started to snack when he didn’t need to which led to more steps leading to more problems. There was a speed crash early in the season which was worrisome because you should build the bike early, not lose it, but it bounced back. Eventually, McKenzie was fired at the miners after an out of five marches and six runs allowed in 3.1IP against the Minnesota Twins. He still has the highest percentage of HardHit allowed in the majors at 52.8%, which makes him a true three-result launcher: either smells, gives up walks, or blows himself up in the stratosphere.
Considering all of this history, it’s about how McKenzie earned himself a start in the next round, if not beyond. His first game on Monday was almost as good as we’ve seen Triston, despite the five runs dropped: 10 strikeouts on the day, including a franchise record eight in a row between the third and fifth inning and worked in the sixth for the first time in the entire season. Good news, he only gave up two walks; bad news, both were in the second when he allowed all the damage: a walk, a double, a single chop that was basically a decay, then a Zack Collins * juuuuust * double inside the line coupled with Cesar Hernandez’s mental breakdown when he dropped the cutoff and didn’t get the ball cleared the goals and allowed three points to score. Nick Madrigal allowed Collins to cross the plate on dead ground, as he moved up to third on Hernandez’s mistake and the bullpen allowed a legacy run to score in the sixth, but McKenzie suffered a bad sequence of events in this second round.
So what made McKenzie effective in this debut despite the boxscore? When he got ahead of the batters, he took them out. All 11 batters he faced who started with a first pitch strike or got a 1-2 count have been recorded. He’s never walked with a hitter he was ahead of, which has been a wonderful turn of events since the season has progressed to this point. He was able to locate and throw efficiently from the jump which is very important considering his first hitting percentage, both in this game and his 2021 season, was 57%, down from 8 , 7 percentage points compared to last year. It’s hard to pitch well when you’re behind the batter and Triston never got to a point where he was giving out at-bats he was winning.
McKenzie was also quite adept at mixing his throws and staying clear of the center of the zone. You can see on the heat map below, nothing was in the middle, his red dot high in the area was mostly fast balls and the only bottom was curved balls which he buried after actually changing eye level hitters. When you’re mostly throwing fastballs, you need something to take the batter off and Monday, the curveball, and to a lesser extent the slider, based only on usage, was doing just that.
I want McKenzie to be good. I think his best place to maximize his potential for himself and the ball club would be the backend of an enclosure where he is not called up for multiple innings, so the workload is not that great and his bike may accelerate, but it can be. effective as a starter if it pursues some of these gains. Not working against yourself sounds easy to say like an ointment, but it was obviously something he needed to work on. McKenzie said himself As his place begins after Zach Plesac’s injury, he changed his mind after allowing walks: less on the guy at the start, more on the guy on the plate. Limiting those walks in general and the damage that can result from them will help McKenzie be more of the pitcher we saw from the third inning through Monday.