There Was No Doubt About It

A Pittsburgh Pirates Blog

Pirates vs. Mets: Taillon Debuts

06.08.16 Posted by

Taillon vs. Syndergaard, 7:05 PM

It was three years and three days ago that Gerrit Cole made his major league debut. I was lucky enough to be at that game, and that morning I collected a bunch of comments from around the Internet about the man. At the time, I said this:

What’s particularly exciting about this is that Cole isn’t being asked to play the role of Bucco savior, the way Andrew McCutchen was when he came up. Cole’s joining a team that’s already ostensibly contending and might just be a piece or two away from being genuinely dangerous. He could be that piece.

The same is true of Taillon: he’s not being asked to save the team from futility, or even mediocrity. It’s already a pretty good team. He’s just being asked to round it out. Granted, he’s joining a much shakier pitching staff than Cole was, but that only means he doesn’t need to do nearly as much to contribute.

Taillon has missed two years with injury, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his numbers: his K rate in AAA is still just about a batter per inning, and his walk rate is microscopic: 0.88 per nine innings. That’s really good. To my mind, pinpoint control is to starters what base running and defense are to young outfielders: it’s the kind of thing that should translate pretty well, and should make them marginally useful even if little else is working. We saw this with Polanco last year, where even his so-so offensive production was enough to produce a 2.5 WAR. Similarly, if Taillon can throw strikes, the odds that he’s at least useful as a starter, even if not dominant, are probably pretty high.

The Bucs are moderate underdogs tonight, though, in large part because Taillon’s first mound opponent is a formidable one: Noah Syndergaard. Syndergaard does it all: he strikes out a ton of guys and induces a lot of ground balls, and he’s not really walking anyone, either. He misses bats and pitches to contact effectively. He doesn’t have a single bad start this year, and he’s only given up three runs once (in 6.2 innings). If you were wondering why the Mets are good after seeing their lineup during yesterday’s doubleheader, this is why: they have some really, really good pitchers.

The odds say Taillon will be a moderately useful guy. Maybe a strong #3 starter for years to come. That’d be a fine outcome. But there’s a chance he’s another Gerrit Cole. There’s a chance this is the beginning of a one-two punch that goes on to lead the Pirates to the promised land. The talent is there, and now, that talent is married to opportunity.

That opportunity starts tonight, at 7:05 PM.

Filed under: game preview, Jameson Taillon