Joe Jimenez and the bad-luck bomb



In everything that follows, you're going to have to forget the results of what happened in Friday night's game against the Minnesota Twins, when Joe Jimenez gave up a three-run bomb to Eddie Rosario (he of the .226 batting average) and cost the Tigers the ballgame. Sometimes process matters more than results, and sometimes results can be deceiving and random -- especially in situations like this. Sometimes you draw pocket aces and end up getting beat on a flush on the river card. Doesn't mean you give up on pocket aces.

What we saw with Joe Jimenez in this game was a lot of very, very good raw stuff. This is stuff that, as Justin Verlander said after the game, will "play" at the MLB level. (Verlander also said that Jimenez is going to be "key" to helping the Tigers sort out their bullpen going forward.)

Let's break down the at-bats, skipping over Rosario's home run until the end.

Jorge Polanco

Jimenez threw him three fastballs, ranging from 96-97 mph, and induced a weak fly ball to left field. All three pitches were located inside, and unfortunately, the weak fly ball was just weak enough that it landed for a base hit and scored a run. Sometimes baseball is a total dick.

Byron Buxton

Facing the right-handed batter, Jimenez started off with a slider low and away, and got a swinging strike. He followed up with three fastballs ranging 96-97 mph, two of which induced a swinging strike and a foul ball. All of these pitches were away from Buxton, until the final pitch, a slider low and inside, which got a called third strike. This is Jimenez mixing his speeds and his locations, and throwing strikes all the way.

Brian Dozier

Facing another right-handed batter, Jimenez started out with a 96 mph heater that caught the lower outside corner. Vicious pitch. After a couple of sliders inside (one of which was a called strike), he started working away from Dozier with 96-97 mph fastballs, both of which were fouled off. He finally retired Dozier with a low slider that induced a weak ground ball. Again, he was mixing his speeds and locations, and he got more weak contact.

Rosario and the Bomb

This is the gut-punch that shouldn't have happened. Rosario swung at the first pitch, a 95 mph fastball up, away, and dead on the black:



That is a pitcher's pitch, and it's a totally unfair pitch. In nine out of ten cases, that's a called strike, a swing and a miss, or a foul/pop-up. It's a great pitch to start the at-bat, and hardly what you would call a "mistake pitch." I mean, there's accidentally hanging a slide, or throwing a change-up middle-middle, or leaving a fastball in a hitter's happy zone, and then there's this pitch.

Unfortunately, it caught just enough of Rosario's preferred location, according to 2016's exit velocity numbers:



We're still a long way from "mistake pitch" here, but as Jimenez spends more time in The Show and leaning the tendencies of various hitters, he'll get better at this. Maybe next time he'll start Rosario with a fastball up and in, instead of an arm-side-running heater up and on the black.

For now, take comfort in knowing this: that was only the fifth home run Jimenez has surrendered since 2015. Home runs and Joe Jimenez are not two subjects often found in the same conversation, because -- as we saw last night -- not only does he throw flameballs with movement, he locates them well and gets a lot of weak contact and/or swings and misses. This is exactly what you want out of a power arm from the bullpen. This is exactly the pitcher you want in a game situation like last night, with the tying and go-ahead runs on base and only one out. 

That's a situation Joe Jimenez can handle, and he's only going to get better as he gets more MLB experience.

Forget the results. That was a great pitch, and I hope he keeps throwing it.
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