With the Toronto Blue Jays in need of figuring out their pitching, JFtC examines where Thomas Pannone fits in
The Toronto Blue Jays continue to move forward, looking to construct a team that can compete in the future. In doing so, they made good strides in 2019 in terms of position players. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Bo Bichette, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Cavan Biggio, Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire all showed signs that they may be able to help the Jays win down the road.
Other position players such as Teoscar Hernandez, Rowdy Tellez, Billy McKinney, Derek Fisher, Jonathan Davis and Anthony Alford may or may not continue to be Blue Jays once the team returns to contention. There is time to figure that out.
Anyone who follows the Jays knows that one of their biggest needs is pitching.
Pannone has pitched in the majors in parts of 2018 and 2019. He has had some shining moments with the Jays. On August 22, 2018, making his first major league start, he took a no hitter in to the 7th inning. On April 14, 2019, Pannone pitched in relief and became the third pitcher in franchise history to throw an immaculate inning (striking out three batters on nine pitches).
His overall results have been mixed, however. In 12 games in MLB in 2018, he posted a 4.19 era. In 2019 he seemed to take a step backward instead of forward, with a 6.16 era in 37 games. If Pannone is to help Toronto win in 2020 and beyond, what is the best way to utilize what he brings to the table?
Taking a closer look at the numbers suggests what the best role for Pannone might be.
In 2018, his era as a starting pitcher was 4.54, as a relief pitcher it was 2.45. Starting games in 2019 his era was a whopping 11.31, out of the bullpen it was a respectable 3.54.
Per Brooks baseball, Pannone’s four seam fastball generates a high number of swings and misses compared to others pitchers’ four seamers, but also results in more fly balls. His curve results in many more ground balls compared to other pitchers’ curves. His changeup seems to be unspectacular in that it generates fewer swings and misses than other pitchers’ changeups AND somewhat more flyballs, which isn’t a combination you want as a pitcher.
Pannone’s fastball averaged 90 mph and his curve 74 mph. His changeup average velocity was 84 mph, only 6 mph slower than his fastball, whereas an effective changeup is usually 8-15 mph slower than the fastball. A 6 mph difference isn’t ideal in terms of disrupting hitters’ timing in order to get outs. It could be to Pannone’s benefit to ditch the changeup and just stick with the four seam fastball and curveball which have yielded positive results. As a two pitch pitcher, his best role would likely be out of the bullpen.
With Tim Mayza out for all of 2020 due to Tommy John surgery and Buddy Boshers electing free agency after refusing an assignment to AAA, the Jays are in need of a left handed relief pitcher in 2020. Pannone could conceivable fill that role.
Other pitchers have gone back and forth between the rotation and bullpen (Joe Biagini is one in recent memory). Not having a defined role can ultimately mess with a pitcher’s ability to be successful.
All signs point to Pannone’s best role being a reliever. For his sake and for the Jays, they should commit to this sooner than later.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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