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Jameson Taillon is making adjustments

Jameson Taillon in 2021 took some steps forward, but for the most part he has struggled struggled to both prevent runs and also pitch in a sustainable manner. What Taillon struggled with in 2021 was that he had become a pitcher with far too many negative qualities to realistically project to perform well in the American League East.

A heavy flyball pitcher, a below average strikeout pitcher, and someone who would walk the league average amount of batters; it simply was not going to work. In 2022 however, Taillon has seemed to put something together to curb his shortcomings in velocity due to his extensive injury history.

Dealing With Lefties

Taillon 2021 walked lots of left-handed hitters, and that was due to a lack of weapons to deal with them.

Taillon’s FF was largely successful vs lefties, but his curveball and slider remained ineffective, and the more you use a pitch in a count, the worse your pitch sequencing is, making Taillon susceptible to late count damage. His stats against lefties were not just underwhelming; they were downright awful.

5.21 FIP
5.29 xFIP
11.8% K-BB%

While Taillon did have his changeup in 2021, it performed poorly (.376 wOBA, 2.7 RV/100). In 2022, the changeup improved dramatically (.000 wOBA, -6 RV/100). Taillon’s changeup is a legitimate weapon, and a high 35.3% Whiff Rate means Taillon can keep lefties off guard while having his typical great fastball mix.

A new weapon in his arsenal is his cutter, a pitch that is solid stuff and command wise (55/80). The pitch has a mere .261 xwOBA against with a 21.0% whiff percentage against. His cutter initially was used only against lefties, but the pitch was used against righties in Toronto, though this sample is still small. How has this affected Taillon’s numbers versus lefties? Well they’re slashing just .176/.222/.294 with a 3.17 FIP and 3.56 xFIP. His 21.1% K-BB% is great, and he’s truly showing that he not just put them away, but over power them with his solid stuff and impeccable command.

Attacking the Zone

Easily the biggest change Taillon has made that has excited me is his willingness to just attack batters. He’s lived in the zone, and has walked under 2% of batters so far. That won’t hold up over a full season, but his hyper-aggressiveness is nice to see.

The command has graded out superbly, with a -0.63 Command xRV/100, giving Taillon a 70/80 grade according to PitchingBot. Throwing just 64 balls, it means he’s thrown 83.1% of his pitches for strikes, a remarkable amount. His stuff isn’t stellar, but it’s certainly strong enough to allow him to live in the zone without getting hammered, something Taillon struggled with last year. He’s going to throw the kitchen sink at batters with cutters, sinkers, sliders, curveballs, changeups, and four-seamers, and he’ll be able to do so in the zone.

Going Forward for Jameson Taillon

Taillon is giving up a lot of hits as a result of his high contact rates against, but his WHIP at 1.14 isn’t impossible to work with. So far he has held batters to an under 1.1 HR/9 rate (1.06) which is also a nice sign of his ability to limit hard contact. Getting barreled at under a 5% clip is phenomenal, and when you walk no one and strike out over 20% of batters, you’re hitting benchmarks for success. That being said, Taillon has to figure out a way to consistently get himself past the 5th inning if he wants to be more than a 4-5 starter.

Taillon has 2 starts where he couldn’t get through 5 innings this year and only 1 where he recorded more than 5 IP. On the surface this seems to be an insignificant talking point, but that’s truly Taillon’s biggest limiting factor. He has the pitch mix, command, and the requisite stuff. Now it’s a matter of proving you can be a pitcher that the bullpen doesn’t need to bail out. He showed this against Toronto, and hopefully that’s a stepping stone Taillon builds on going forward.