Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

First Look – Mitchell Parker


Mitchell Parker made his MLB debut in rather daunting conditions and came out with the win. Photo via Washington Post

Nats prospect Mitchell Parker got the call to come up and replace starts for the injured Josiah Grey, ahead of Joan Adon and Jackson Rutledge, who are both higher on the pecking order but each of whom had issues preventing them from getting the call. Adon hasn’t been back down long enough since his 4/10/24 option (though I think an option can be cancelled with no notice in case of an injury), and Rutledge took a come-backer off the ankle, leaving him a bit day-to-day. So Parker gets the call.

And, well, he delivered. Here’s the box score. 5ip, 4hits, 2ER, 4Ks, and zero walks. 81 pitches to complete five innings, and he got yanked instead of facing 2-3-4 in the bottom of the 6th.

Ok, first the good: to this observer, he looked composed and strong. He’s a big guy; this isn’t the kind of guy who depends on whippy arm action and who you look at his mechanics and say, “yup, TJ coming.” His mechanics are like a combination of Clayton Kershaw at the beginning and Andy Pettite as he delivers (look at the above picture and tell me you don’t see Pettite). He struck out Mookie Betts twice (!). He struck out Shoehi Ohtani (!!). He kept the ball in the ballpark against one of the best lineups in the game, and he didn’t walk anyone. The big knock on Parker is his BB/9, and to not walk anyone in a MLB game where he could have been trying to pitch around guys is solid.

A quick glance at his Pitch F/X data shows some interesting information:

  • Pitch FX didn’t give him credit for a “fastball” all night, which seems odd b/c he definitely threw a bunch. Therefore we don’t have any velocity metrics other than my memory. I saw FBs in the 92-93 range mostly, Maybe saw a 95 peak at one point, could be wrong. That’s not bad.
  • Pitch FX has him with this breakdown of pitches on the night: 64% slider, 2.7% cutter, 21.6% curveball, and 10.8% split finger. Now, does he have a “slider?” I didn’t think so; i think he has a curve. The slider and curve average velocities in fangraphs are 79.8 and 78.6 respectively, so yeah that’s not a slider.
  • His curve looked great. Obviously; its his best pitch. The split finger had some serious movement and was described as an “out pitch” … yeah, it looked unhittable, and uncatchable.

Now for the concerning: He gave up a lot of hard contact. The Dodgers didn’t have a “soft contact” ball all night (the Nats had 28% “soft contact” by way of comparison). A lot of Parker’s outs were “line drive to LF” and “Deep fly ball caught on warning track.” So, he might have been a little lucky to not have more crooked numbers on the board.

I also feel like he had a hard time controlling the fastball in the zone (that’s the “command” portion of command and control). 81 pitches broke down to 52 strikes, 29 balls. That’s not an awful ratio, but it also was a lot of pitches to get through innings. 81 pitches through five. I mean, yes that’s a lot. I’m not sure how many pitches he had by inning, but he probably would have needed another 20 to get through the 6th, given that he was facing the heart of the order. I think we’d like to see more efficiency there; I’d like to see a starter be in the 100 range by the end of the 7th so that they could push through to a theoretical 120 pitch limit if need be to finish 8 full, then hand off to a closer. Of course, the modern game now depends so heavily on relievers that if I can get a quality start out of a guy i’m ecstatic.

All in all, a very positive debut for the guy. Can he stick around? can he give us better innings that someone like Williams or Corbin? Maybe. Lets see how it goes for the next couple cycles of the rotation.

Written by Todd Boss

April 16th, 2024 at 10:17 am

Posted in Majors Pitching

8 Responses to 'First Look – Mitchell Parker'

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  1. I’d say he’s earned another start or two. If nothing else, we’ll see how the hitters adjust and if he can handle it. If nothing else, a few starts and then a month or two in AAA to learn some finer points would be nice.

    Jeez, can you imagine developing a surprise rotation member in two consecutive years?

    kevin r

    16 Apr 24 at 11:36 am

  2. Definitely has earned more starts. Grey’s probably out two months, if he doesn’t get a TJ diagnosis. If he lasts two months with a 4.50 ERA or less i’ll be ecstatic.

    Todd Boss

    16 Apr 24 at 2:00 pm

  3. while I think he had some good BABIP luck he also did a lot of good things on a night he will never forget. good for him and good for the Nats giving him the chance.


    17 Apr 24 at 8:57 am

  4. All the faults of Parker have been far bigger weaknesses of Gray. Gray is up there with Corbin as the least effective SPs in MLB over the past several seasons. Now sprinkle in the serious elbow concerns, and I’m less and less convinced Gray is a piece for the future. At least with Gore, we’ve seen glimpses of his potential, whereas it seems the occasional good glimpses we get of Gray point to his future as not much more than an innings eater.

    We’re going to need 3+ among Parker, Herz, Cavalli, Rutledge, Henry, Susana, Bennett and the second tier crop (like Saenz, Alvarez, Luckham, etc.) to turn into major league quality pitchers if this rebuild stands much hope.


    18 Apr 24 at 7:22 am

  5. Great stuff Todd! Can’t wait to see him Sunday; always liked his unusual delivery.

    Mark L

    20 Apr 24 at 12:16 pm

  6. Well, his Sunday performance couldn’t have gone better. 7pm 3hits 0 runs 0 walks. I mean, where’d that come from? I was absolutely expecting a 4 1/3, 5ER 3walk kind of performance, especially against Houston.

    He’s now beaten LA and Houston, basically the two best teams form the last decade and both defending division champs. I mean, what happens when he goes up against a team that’s not trying like Miami?

    Todd Boss

    22 Apr 24 at 9:55 am

  7. I’m just going to enjoy the Mitchell Parker ride as long as it lasts and not get caught up in “is this who he is?” speculation.

    One thing that I suspected going into the season is that the Nats would be fun to watch even though they likely aren’t “good.” Yet. The early returns on Parker are part of that enjoyment.

    John C.

    22 Apr 24 at 11:18 am

  8. after the start in LA Parker is getting ground ball outs. his last two starts featured more GBs than FBs. last year in MiLB he did that exactly twice for the whole year. it’s still very early but if this and his improved walk rate continues…


    30 Apr 24 at 8:46 am

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