Daniel McCutchen: Keeping it in the Zone

A quick bit on Daniel McCutchen:

"They came out swinging," said McCutchen, who also allowed a double to Bautista. "They were very aggressive. Very aggressive."

This will probably be the case all year for McCutchen, whose basic M.O. is to chuck balls into the zone and hope for the best. It isn't to anyone's advantage to sit around waiting for a free pass. Chucking it into the zone and hoping for the best is, of course, the typical pattern of junkballers the world over, but fortunately, McCutchen's repertoire is a little better than that of a junkballer. 

Reports out of camp have said that McCutchen's changeup has looked good, which bodes well. The big disadvantage of throwing in the zone all the time is allowing too many homers, which have been the weakest aspect of McCutchen's game throughout his time in the minors. In his six starts in the majors last year, he allowed six homers. That's a couple too many, and if he keeps allowing a homer per start, he probably won't last too long in the rotation. It's a small sample size, but even before he arrived in the big leagues, there was already reason for concern about McCutchen's tendency to allow homers.

There is reason for hope, though. In his minor league career, McCutchen allowed 48 jacks, 27 of which were against his 832 lefty batters. He only allowed 21 against righties despite facing them 300 more times. Of course you'd expect a righty pitcher to struggle a little with lefties, but aside from the homers, McCutchen actually handled them pretty decently, allowing only a .238 batting average against. His changeup last year was already pretty good, but if he can improve it at all last year, the homers won't be such a problem, since lefties, who won't struggle as much as righties with his breaking stuff, won't be able to sit on his fastball. If he can do improve the change and throw strikes the way he always has, he can be a decent starter, and perhaps he can even eventually be the sort of guy who pitches 200 innings a year, if only because he won't throw a dozen pitches to each batter. A peak along the lines of Jeff Suppan's better seasons is optimistic, but possible, and that would be pretty sweet. 

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