Masn announcer JP Santangelo called it the “most exciting moment of the year,” speaking of the stunning 3-run homer that starter Tom Milone hit off the first major league pitch he saw (see this AP link for some cool stats about the feat). And its hard to disagree; I exclaimed loudly when he hit that ball, pounding a first-pitch inside fastball from his opposite number for a no-doubter to the back of the Nats bullpen to give himself a 5 run lead after 2 innings. It wasn’t going to be nearly enough though…. Here’s some thoughts on Milone’s 9/3/11 debut against the Mets.
Milone’s scouting reports compare him to a young Tom Glavine, and its hard not to disagree. He has a very easy, smooth motion with minimum effort, bringing a fastball from the left hand side that hits 90mph easily (as opposed to the scouting reports we had heard, which listed his max fastball at 87-88). In fact, he hit the 90 mph barrier 8-9 times according to his Pitch f/x data. That’s good news; it would have been hard to imagine a Jamie Moyer-esque young lefty surviving in this modern era of power pitching.
Milone features 4 pitches (a point I’ve talked about a lot w/r/t Ross Dewtiler and his lack of a 4th pitch or a quality 3rd pitch); a four-seam fastball, a cutter, a big looping curve-ball and a change-up. Pitch f/x had a very difficult time figuring out what he was throwing on the night, listing him as throwing 7 different types of pitches, but odds are they were mistaking a 2-seamer as his change-up and a slider being his cut-fastball. On the night, he seemed to throw mostly fastballs and changes. He threw just a few of the big curve-balls (four if you believe the pitch f/x data) and a handful of the cut-fastballs. He didn’t see to really have control of the cut-fastball, missing inside a number of times. His change-up (his best pitch) was effective, but his best tool (pinpoint control of his fastball) was on display.
Milone started out the first getting a few low-strike calls that left the Mets players and bench fussing loudly. I guess that’s what it took to get the umpire to change his ways, because soon after the same knee-high strike call that Milone got in the first inning against Reyes didn’t get called. In fact, there were a number of borderline missed calls after the first inning that had me (and the broadcast team) head-scratching. He quickly worked through the order the first time, giving up just one single and retiring the first 7 guys he faced. He got a number of first-pitch strikes and worked ahead in the count a lot the first time through the lineup. Santangelo mentioned how quickly MLB hitters adjust, and true to form the second time through the order Milone was more or less pounded. Wright blasted a ground-rule double, Pagan hit a bullet through the right side to score two, and then a 2-run homer to Evans suddenly gave back most of the 5-run lead his team staked him. When he couldn’t get Reyes out to start the 3rd time through the order in the 5th inning, he got yanked. Understandable; if the Mets got four hits out of nine batters the 2nd time through the lineup, they were likely to do at least the same the next time through, if not better.
On the night, 4 1/3 innings, 4 runs on 6 hits. He got 2 Ks (one on a very odd swing on a high-and-outside 0-2 fastball and one against league-leading Reyes on a beautiful change-up) and gave up one homer. He threw 74 pitches, 51 for strikes and showed his great control. I think he started to struggle once he stopped getting the knee-high strike call, he started to get burned by working further up and in. He doesn’t have nearly enough power to miss inside. I think he was hurt by the lack of cutter control and could have used that pitch to keep hitters honest. If he throws a 90mph straight fastball, then an 88 mph cutter with movement should be a great pitch to use, expecially against right-handers. He tried working it inside (ala Mariano Rivera) but gave up after he kept missing too far inside. Clearly he didn’t adjust to hitters as well as they were adjusting to him the 2nd time through the order; it will be interesting to see if that becomes a trend the next few times he throws.
On the night; a promising beginning and a troublesome finish. The Mets are a very good hitting team (2nd in the league in average) so it was going to be hard to keep them completely quiet. Lets see how he does the next time against Houston (a far worse team) before getting a re-match in New York in a couple weeks’ time.