Last season, Taylor Jungmann took the Milwaukee Brewers and the rest of the league by storm after his mid-season promotion before fading down the stretch in September.
Coming into the season, Jungmann was looked at as a potential steady arm for the Milwaukee Brewers rotation. His first four starts this season, however, have not been of the quality that the Milwaukee Brewers had been hoping for. It is still very early in the season, and there is plenty of time for him to turn it around and be a productive arm by the end of the year, but here are some initial observations on why he has not been as productive so far this season:
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Walk Rate – Last season for the Milwaukee Brewers, Taylor Jungmann walked an average of 3.5 batters per nine innings. This season through four starts he is averaging 5.3 walks per nine innings. An increase of nearly two walks per nine indicates control problems which can hopefully be fixed by tweaking his mechanics. His career walk rate in AA was 4.1 and in AAA was 4.2, so as he throws more innings his walk rate is likely to fall closer to these career numbers, which should also come with a bump in production. It’s also worth noting that his walk rate from last season was over half a walk lower than these numbers, indicating that he may have overperformed slightly upon entering the league.
Strikeout Rate – This one goes hand in hand with his walk rate. Last season Jungmann struck out an average of 8.1 batters per nine innings. This season he is striking out an average of 5.8 batters per nine innings. That’s a huge drop-off that has not helped him during his first four starts. He has a career K/9 of 7.0 across all levels, so hopefully with more innings he can regain his form and start missing more bats.
Fastball Velocity – With this one I’d like to reiterate that it’s still early in the season, and pitchers tend to throw harder as it gets warmer. So far this season Jungmann is averaging 89.8 mph on his fastball according to FanGraphs. That’s a drop of over two mph from last season. To compare, Jimmy Nelson‘s average fastball velocity last season was 93.3 mph, and this season it is 93.0 mph.
What’s concerning here is not that he lost velocity, but rather how much velocity was lost. Most pitchers lose velocity over time, 2 mph is a significant drop over the course of one off-season for someone who is still young, and a decline in velocity of that magnitude helps to explain why he is not striking out as many batters. And since he is not striking out as many batters that make control over his pitches even more important. Walking as many batters as he has over his first four starts while not having the velocity to strike batters out is a bad combo that leads to rough outings such as Jungmann’s first four this season for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Jungmann has only made four starts, so it might be too early to be digging into the numbers, but it is still important for him to regain velocity and control if he wants to have a successful season for the Milwaukee Brewers. Improving his strikeout and walk rates while increasing his velocity along with normalizing his BABIP of .345 will lead to better on-field results. It’s a long season with plenty of time left to turn things around, and he can start by pitching well against a good Cubs team on Thursday.