A few facts, thoughts and observations following the Mud Hens' 6-1 loss to Charlotte at Fifth Third Field Thursday in Austin Jackson's first of two games in a rehab assignment with Toledo ...
First, the numbers: Jackson was 0-for-4 at the plate, striking out after working a full count in the first inning, working another full count before grounding out to second in the fourth inning, striking out on three pitches in the sixth and grounding out in the ninth in a six-pitch at-bat, with this one moving a runner to third base.
Jackson looked OK at the plate, but not great. The original plan was for him to take three at-bats, then leave the game. He said afterwards that he felt good, so he wanted that fourth at-bat to try and get a little sharper.
Defensively he had three putouts: in the first inning he got turned around on a fly ball, but made a nifty pirouette on the way to making a catch, and he made two catches in the eighth, including one after a long run. He nearly made the catch on the three-run double by Greg Golson in the ninth; he seemed to get a late start on the ball, which was hit to the deepest part of the field.
After the game, he said he felt good. He looked forward to seeing if he still felt good Friday, a day after playing, and that his goal for Friday's game was to get sharp to return to Detroit. He also said the potential for a return to Detroit would be evaluated after Friday's game.
For those of you wondering: P.F. Chang's was the post-game spread courtesy of Jackson Thursday, and Friday's post-game spread is expected to come from Outback Steakhouse.
Let's turn our attention to the start by Toledo's Andy Oliver, shall we? Oliver pitched very well except for one mistake, and that -- along with the struggles of the Mud Hen offense -- cost the lefty a loss.
First, the raw numbers: Oliver went 7.2 innings, his longest start for the Mud Hens this season, allowing five hits and two walks while fanning six. All three runs came on one swing of the bat: Oliver left and change-up high in the strike zone, and Charlotte's Drew Garcia hit a high fly ball down the left-field line that stayed fair and cleared the fence for his first home run of the season.
I think it's interesting to note that Oliver struck out Garcia on a change-up in his first at-bat. In short, pitch selection was good, pitch execution was not.
After back-to-back five-walk efforts in his last two starts, Oliver's two walks on Thursday were a good sign. He threw a total of 115 pitches, 73 of which were strikes (63.5 percent), and it broke down this way:
- First inning: 12 pitches, 8 strikes (66.7 percent)
- Second inning: 14 pitches, 11 strikes (78.6 percent)
- Third inning: 10 pitches, 7 strikes (70 percent)
- Fourth inning: 20 pitches, 13 strikes (65 percent)
- Fifth inning: 19 pitches, 11 strikes (57.9 percent)
- Sixth inning: 19 pitches, 9 strikes (47.4 percent)
- Seventh inning: 8 pitches, 6 strikes (75 percent)
- Eighth inning: 13 pitches, 7 strikes (53.8 percent)
As you look at those numbers, it's clear Oliver's command dropped a little bit after the fourth inning. Another example of that drop in command is Oliver's first-pitch strike totals: for the game he threw first-pitch strikes to 15-of-31 Charlotte hitters he faced (48.4 percent), but that number is deceiving. In the first four innings the southpaw threw first-pitch strikes to 10-of-17 hitters (58.8 percent), and in the four innings that followed he threw first-pitch strikes to just 5-of-14 (35.7 percent).
Oliver reached an 0-2 count to eight difference hitters (five in the first four innings, three in the final four) and got eight outs, but only two strikeouts. Oliver fell behind 2-0 to eight hitters (one in the third, one in the fourth, and two each in the fifth, sixth and eighth -- notice a pattern?), and got five outs (two by strikeout) along with two walks and a double. And the 24-year-old reached a three-ball count seven times (once in the first, once in the fourth, twice in the fifth and sixth and once in the eight), and those plate appearances resulted in four outs (curiously, three by strikeout) as well as a single and the two walks.
Ready for pitch speeds? Here we go ... Oliver's fastball sat at 93-94 mph (six at 91, four at 92, 27 at 93, 20 at 94, three at 95 and two at 96), while his change-up sat at 85-86 mph (11 at 85, 12 at 86, three at 87) and his slider sat at 83-84 mph (five at 83, 15 at 84).
And yes, I know I'm missing pitches. There was a no-hitter keeping me busy, remember.
Not sure if this means anything, but putting it out there ... of the 115 pitches Oliver threw, 13 resulted in a swing and a miss (11.3 percent). Of those 13 swings, six came on the fastball, six came on the change-up and one came on the slider.
And I'm not sure if this means anything, but of the pitches I charted, 27-of-62 that ranged between 91-96 mph (fastballs) were called balls (43.5 percent), while 3-of-18 between 85-87 (change-ups) were called balls (16.7 percent) and 7-of-20 between 83-84 mph (sliders) were called balls (35 percent).
Finally, a few thoughts on the newest Mud Hen catcher, Rob Brantly. The 22-year-old went 0-for-2 in the contest, striking out in the second, drawing a walk in the fifth and hitting into a double play to end the seventh.
In his first two games with Toledo, Brantly is hitting .200 (1-for-5) with a single, a walk and a strikeout.
Offensively, it's easy to see why he was the hardest player to strike out in the Eastern League. He has a short swing built for contact ... it doesn't seem to have a lot of power (although Brantly did have three home runs for Double-A Erie), but he seems to be able to put the ball in play.
Brantly also seems to have a good eye and is willing to work counts. After striking out on three pitches in his first at-bat against Charlotte's Terry Doyle Thursday, Brantly got ahead 3-0, allowed the count to go full, and drew a walk in the second. In the final at-bat the count reached 2-2 before he hit the grounded that became a double play.
Defensively, he seems to call a good game. I don't remember either pitcher he worked with shaking him off a lot. His throwing to second is a little unorthodox, but Charlotte didn't run against him (the Knights' steal came on a play where Oliver picked the runner off first, but the throw to second was too slow to retire the baserunner).
I'd like to see more of Brantly before I make a final decision, but he does seem to be a talented player.
Click here to read Thursday's in-game blog, which includes updates on Ryan Raburn, Matt Hoffman, and much more.