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Eyeball Scout: Plenty To Like In Jefferies’ First 2021 Start

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MLB: Oakland Athletics at Los Angeles Angels
Winz!
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight the Eyeball Scout does not have time for the usual full (rambling) analysis — consider this more a conversation starter for you to continue. Daulton Jefferies Earned his first major league win today, throwing 5 IP and allowing 3 ER. That may be a 5.40 ERA for the day, and no doubt things were a bit dicey early. Nonetheless, the Eyeball Scout saw much to like about Jefferies’ chances to be successful going forward.

Control

Control was not particularly a strength today, but that’s a good thing because it’s the one area where we know Jefferies to in fact be strong. AAA this season, the right-hander walked only 9 batters in 59 innings, and control has always been a calling card.

So the fact that he walked 3 batters today in 5 innings should not be a concern long-term. Chalk it up to nerves, particularly his first walk, which came to the first batter he faced, David Fletcher. As he settles down — which should happen with his first start, first win, a lot of firsts getting out of the way — you can expect his control not only to be fine but most likely to be very good.

Command

Command differs from control in that it focuses less on whether you can throw enough strikes and more on the ability to throw the strikes, or balls, in the location that you intend. I thought today that Jefferies’ command was better than his control, meaning that while he did walk too many, to the rest of the hitters his command was often pinpoint on the corners of the plate.

And it is Important to note that Jefferies commanded both sides of the plate, as well as pitching effectively at both the top and bottom of the strike zone.

Fastball

I was pleasantly surprised by the zip on Jefferies fastball, which consistently sat 92-94 MPH. that velocity is, nowadays, somewhat pedestrian but it had plenty of “giddy up”. Not only did it generate swings-and-misses it also did not get squared up, part of the reason Jefferies allowed just three hits and very few hard-hit balls.

Cutter

I was also pleasantly surprised by the quality, and consistency, of Jefferies’ cutter, a pitch I haven’t really heard much about in reference to his arsenal. Perhaps I am referring to the same pitch we have heard about as a “retooled slider,” but at 91MPH and with very horizontal break it looks exactly like a cutter to me. So that’s what I’m calling it.

What stood out to me first is that Jefferies did not make any location mistakes with it, routinely getting it in on the hands of the LH batters exactly as designed and never leaking out over the middle of the plate. And it provided a good yang to the ying that is his fastball, with its slightly different velocity and movement to throw off hitters.

Breaking pitch

The first breaking pitch Jefferies threw was a beaut, getting Justin Upton way out in front for a swinging strike. The second one, not so much — Max Stassi launched it over the wall for a two-run homer.

As much as I enjoyed the first breaking pitch I saw, overall I thought it was by far Jefferies’ weakest pitch and the one capable of getting him in trouble. Other than stealing a strike first pitch, he either needs to throw it harder or make sure it is really down in the zone, or he might be watching a lot of long drives.

Changeup

The changeup is reputed to be one of Jefferies’ best pitches, if not his best. Again I am heartened by today’s start because while he threw some very good changeups I’m not sure it lived up to its reputation, meaning that better changeups are probably still to come.

I do find it a bit odd that even today, when he wasn’t overthrowing it as much as he did in last year’s start, the differential between his fastball (93MPH-ish) and changeup (87MPH-ish) isn’t a whole lot. But that worked, in later years, for Felix Hernandez, and I guess you could do worse for a pitcher comp.

In Summary

I look at today’s start and project fewer nerves, better control, and a more consistently devastating changeup, and I see a very good pitcher. So while 3 ER in 5 IP isn’t spectacular, and the first couple innings were very much touch and go, I thought there was a lot to like and I came out of today’s game hopeful for Jefferies as a pitcher who can help the big league club (obligatory “if he stays healthy”) going forward.

Congratulations, Daulton, on your first big league win. We may yet learn how to spell your name.