The Oakland A's had an MLB debut on Saturday, as starting pitcher Daniel Mengden took the hill against the Reds. The right-hander had a decent day overall, pitching into the 6th and limiting the Cincinnati Reds to two runs. His performance didn't quite live up to the impossibly high bar he set for himself in the minors this year, but the 23-year-old held his own in his first try against the top competition in the world. His final line: 5⅔ ip, 2 runs, 5 Ks, 4 BB, 1 HR, 6 hits.
There's more to an MLB debut than just numbers, though. Here are the three best things about Mengden's day.
1. Mustache game on point
Mengden's top-notch whiskers didn't come as a surprise to anyone, as his stache's reputation precedes him. But seeing it in action, with your own eyes, on a major league field, that's a whole different ballgame. Behold!
Dear A's fans,— Dalton Johnson (@DaltonJ_Johnson) June 11, 2016
Here's Daniel Mengden curling his mustache. You're welcome. pic.twitter.com/9xYClEJfWp
That is not a cheap knockoff. That is full Rollie status. When your team is 25-36, these become the important things.
2. Old-timey windup
If his 70s mustache wasn't enough, then Mengden's windup is definitive proof that time travel exists. There are not many pitchers left who do the full hands-over-head windup motion anymore, and what was once commonplace now looks like a relic from the past. Mengden owns it, though, and it's beautiful.
That's not just hands-over-head. There's even an extra hitch in there, right at the top, adding more funkiness to the delivery. The style has fallen out of favor over time due to what is perceived as extra wasted movement, but it does have its proponents who believe it can help with timing, rhythm, and avoiding tension in the arm. More important, though, is what works for each individual pitcher. Mengden explained to Scout.com that this style, which he discovered on accident while messing around one day in college during a bullpen session, does the trick for him:
"The one thing about the Astros, they kind of messed with my mechanics a little bit, and when I came to the A's, they let me go back to what I used to do in college. They don't care how it looks; if I throw strikes, I throw strikes," Mengden said. "I went back to my old wind-up, and I feel comfortable with it and have been throwing really well."
The stache, the windup, and toss in some high socks to seal the deal. I don't know if it's physically possible to look more like a baseball player than Daniel Mengden.
3. 96 mph!
The word on Mengden this year is that his velocity is up. In his interview with Athletics Farm, he mentioned that he's topped out at 98 mph this year. We didn't quite see that on Saturday, but he came close. MLB Gameday had him sitting around 91-94 with his fastball for most of the afternoon, but he did pump it up to 95 a handful of times and in the 5th inning he did this:
Let's translate that into English. Facing a veteran, former All-Star hitter, he got ahead in the count with a couple fastballs and then reached back for that something extra, that little bit of oomph that a pitcher can sometimes call on when he needs it the most. Phillips swung through it for the K.
The day wasn't perfect, of course. Mengden left a 92 mph fastball up to Jay Bruce and watched it go for a two-run homer, which was enough to tag him with the loss in front of this atrocious A's lineup. Two if his five strikeouts were the opposing pitcher, Dan Straily, and he didn't have a single 1-2-3 inning -- in fact, the Reds got a runner into scoring position in every frame. But overall it was a fine effort, as he refused to give in to most of those rallies and his breaking ball earned him a few Ks along the way.
Welcome to Oakland, Daniel. We can't wait to see more of you!