Last night was simply a night most Cincinnati Reds fans would like to get out of their minds as quickly as possible, so forgive me for bringing part of it back up, but last night was the Major League debut for 30-year-old Jumbo Diaz after spending parts of 13 seasons in the minor leagues. The night could have gone better from a results standpoint as he allowed three runs on two homers in an inning of work. He didn’t strike anyone out or walk anyone.
After having plenty of bullpen struggles the Reds were looking for an answer to help the bullpen and after absolutely dominating Louisville the Reds finally called up Diaz to see if he could help. As noted above, the results weren’t good in his debut. We live in an instant gratification society and twitter was blowing up during the game that the Reds had made the wrong choice and Diaz should go back to Louisville.
Let’s pump the brakes a little bit on that one. Yes, the performance could have gone better, but Diaz wasn’t the only pitcher who struggled. Every pitcher who took the mound allowed a run while they were on it except for Manny Parra who only faced one batter and walked him. Mat Latos was charged with five earned runs in 5.2 innings. Jonathan Broxton gave up a run for just the second time this year. Aroldis Chapman was charged with four earned runs in 0.2 innings. Sam LeCure gave up a run in 0.1 innings. Whatever it was, the Blue Jays just had it on the night. They are the second best offense in baseball and they showed why against the Reds on Friday night.
One outing doesn’t tell us much, but there were some good things behind the performance with Diaz. He threw four pitches that registered at 100 MPH, and was sitting at 97-99 MPH. He threw one sinker in particular that is tough to wrap my head around to Munenori Kawasaki that went for a called strike. When looking at the Pitch F/X data after the game (the data used to provide the pitch movements on MLB Gameday), the right hander threw a 100 MPH sinker that had 10 inches of horizontal run on it with more sink than most change ups show in the big leagues (it registered a 0.35 inch “rise”, which is actually very much sink as the numbers are calculated without accounting for gravity; in this system the only pitches that show up at a negative “sink” are some sliders and curveballs). While it was just one pitch, I decided to look up who else has a fastball that has 10 inches of run on it and just 0-to-1-inch of “rise” to their fastball on average this year to find a comparison. There was one pitcher that came close to that. Blake Treinen of the Nationals. And his velocity averages just 95 MPH.
Jose Diaz has a pitch that hardly anyone else in baseball can match. His sinker has elite velocity and it has elite movement. It is very hard to get by with just one pitch, and Diaz throws more than one, mixing in a cutter/slider and a change up too, but he has something working very much in his favor that just didn’t show up consistently in his debut. Was it nerves? That wouldn’t be surprising and it wouldn’t be the first time it has happened to someone.
At the end of the day, it was a bad start to the career for Diaz, but there seems to be something special about what he can do with a baseball. One game shouldn’t be used to make decisions on players and the big right hander should not be given up on after just one outing.