As Luke Erickson noted over on NationalsProspects.com, one of the Nats worst-kept secrets was finally let out of the bag when word broke that Nats 2013 minor-league sensation Taylor Jordan was in New York and was going to make his Major League debut on Saturday June 29th. Starting in place of “injured” and ineffective starter Dan Haren, Jordan went up against one of the worst offensive teams in Baseball (the Mets are dead last in team batting average, hitting just .229 as a team as of 6/29’s game). Lets review how Jordan did.
At the end of the day, (a 5-1 Loss for the Nats and a “Loss” for Jordan in his debut), Jordan’s line probably betrays how well he pitched on the day. Jordan was pulled after 4 1/3 innings and was relatively unlucky to have given up the 3 runs (1 earned) that he did. After a nervous first inning that included a walk and a HBP, Jordan induced one of many ground ball outs on the night to get out of the jam. He cruised through the 2nd and 3rd innings relatively unscathed before some bad luck and a couple of bad pitches cost him a run in the third. He got what looked to be a double-play ball to erase one runner who reached by error but the turn was slow (in fairness, a ball deep to the hole in 2nd and a fast runner conspired against the turn). He then hung a slider against John Buck who hit it sharply to left to drive in the first of his charged runs in the 4th.
Ryan Zimmerman‘s questionable positioning against the Mets’ cleanup hitter Marlon Byrd led to two fielding errors on sharply hit balls that, despite their pace, should have been outs (why is he playing even with the bag there?? Does he really think Byrd is bunting batting out of the clean-up spot?) Then a little-league sequence in the 5th led to the 2nd run being scored when Ian Desmond‘s attempt to get Daniel Murphy advancing to third led to a second run. Jordan’s last charged run was on a sac fly/inherited runner allowed to score by his relief pitcher Craig Stammen.
Jordan featured a fastball that was regularly 91-92 but which peaked at 95.81. He seemed to tire as the game went on; his peak fastballs were all in the first two innings (perhaps he was “amped up”). His mechanics reminded you of Jered Weaver, with a sweeping cross-body motion that results in plenty of movement on his pitches. He featured a very plus change-up, which he commanded well and was able to get key strikes on (he had no issues throwing it to lead-off a hitter, or at 2-0). His slider didn’t move much, but it also featured as a plus pitch when he kept it down. He was able to locate his fastball well, as best evidenced in David Wright‘s third at-bat against him, where Jordan fooled him badly with a slider, jammed him inside repeatedly and eventually forced a weak ground-ball to the shortstop to retire him in the 5th. He gave up some sharply hit balls, but he also was very unlucky as a couple of flairs and bloops fell in just behind the infield.
On the day, he gave up 5 hits, two walks, and a HBP against just one strike-out (against his opposing number Dillon Gee, who he retired with another fantastic change-up). He wasn’t very efficient on the mound, only throwing 48 of 84 pitches for strikes. He wasn’t “nibbling” per se, but definitely works the corners and missed his spots. In the 4th and 5th he was constantly falling behind hitters and (as Masn announcer J.P. Santangelo noted) it eventually caught up with him. He got 9 ground outs to just 3 fly outs to go along with a handful of bloop singles, and to me its clear what his approach is. Despite pretty decent K/9 numbers so far in the 2013 minor league season (72 Ks in 90 1/3 innings) he’s definitely a guy who is going to rely on location and a sinking fastball to induce grounders for outs.
All in all, in an oft-repeated mantra for 2013 you can’t win if you don’t score. He probably was pulled when he should have been and isn’t really at fault for the loss (not when your offense only scores one run against a middling pitcher like Gee). I think Jordan clearly has earned another start and probably sticks around for a while.
One last note: I can’t help but comment on a cynical but possibly true comment I read in one of the other Nats blogs (my apologies, I cannot remember who said it). Is Jordan’s call-up a precursor to his being included in a possible trade, much as Mike Rizzo featured both Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock at the end of 2011 prior to shipping them off? I ask this because Jordan doesn’t seem to be the typical Rizzo guy; he’s not going to overpower you, he doesn’t throw mid 90s. Then again, neither does Haren and that didn’t stop Rizzo from signing him for $13M.
Either way, I look forward to his next outing. I’m always excited to watch new guys on the mound.