Brewers: 3 Observations from Janson Junk's First Start for the Crew
By Matt Carroll
Milwaukee Brewers fans have gotten to see several new additions debut for the team over the first couple weeks of the 2023 season. Another new Crew member made his first appearance as a Brewer on Wednesday when Janson Junk made a spot start on the road against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Acquired last offseason as part of the trade that sent outfielder Hunter Renfroe to the Los Angeles Angels, Junk was pressed into duty when starter Brandon Woodruff was sent to the injured list with shoulder inflamation on Tuesday.
The outing didn't end up going the way Junk probably would've liked. The 27-year-old lasted just 4.2 innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on seven hits and two walks, while striking out two. One of those hits was a three-run homer off the bat of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the third inning. Milwaukee went on to lose the game 7-3.
As this was Junk's first start for the Brewers, let's look at three observations from Wednesday's start.
1. Janson Junk's velocity was largely down from 2022
It's not uncommon for some pitchers to start a season with their velocity down a tick. Currently, fellow Brewers starter Eric Lauer is going through the same issue. Junk's velocity is down, but to a seemingly lesser extent.
Junk's four-seam fastball and changeup were down 0.8 and 3.4 miles per hour, respectively, per Baseball Savant. It also appears that his slider from 2022 is now being classified as a sweeper in 2023, the later being down 3.1 mph. Junk's fastball averaged 92.5 mph last season, so a drop in velocity isn't particularly great.
2. The Brewers had Janson Junk lean further into his changeup
In his three games last season, Junk primarily relied on two pitches, his four-seamer and his slider, throwing them a combined 88.7% of the time. In four games the year before that, he threw his slider somewhat less and his curveball somewhat more. But in neither season did he throw his changeup more than 3.2% of the time.
That changed in Wednesday's start as Junk threw 13 of his 79 pitches for changeups (16.5%). Four of those changeups were put in play with one going for an RBI-double, two going for outs, and one actually being called as catcher's interference. The Brewers can be a sucker for a pitcher with a good changeup so we'll see if they can help Junk harness it in an effective way.
3. Janson Junk drew zero whiffs on Wednesday for the Brewers
Junk doesn't draw many whiffs as it is when he pitches, having compiled a 17.4% whiff rate (the MLB average is 24.7%) over his short MLB career. But on Wednesday, he definitely wasn't fooling any Diamondbacks hitters.
Junk didn't draw a single swing and miss from any of the 24 batters that he faced. It's not like he needs to have a Corbin Burnes type whiff rate, but he'll need to induce at least some whiffs in order to be successful.
It wasn't a great first appearance as a Brewer for Junk, but he's young and has plenty of time to turn things around. That might need to be relatively soon considering Woodruff will miss at least another couple starts.