One of the highlights of covering the South Bend Cubs this summer has been watching Jake Stinnett pitch. Stinnett throws in the low 90’s and can get his fastball up to 95 at times, although that is a rarity. He also has a plus slider and a changeup. What makes each pitch so good is their movement, but that has also been Stinnett’s downfall, as he has had trouble with control.
See the video below for movement on just his slider – his best pitch.
This year, Stinnett has thrown 97 and 2/3 innings with an ERA a 4.61. He’s given up 102 hits but has struck out 75 and walked 46 while only allowing three home runs. The most interesting thing about Stinnett to me are his splits. They make no sense at all.
In that context is easy to understand why he might be struggling this year. When you watch him pitch, it’s obvious that he has a plan, that he feels confident in his pitches, but he just has trouble controlling his pitches as evidenced by his high walk totals.
Stinnett has almost been two different pitchers this year. There was the one in the first half who had a 5.29 ERA in 11 starts while walking 32 batters in 49 innings. And then there’s the pitcher of the second half who has a 3.91 ERA in eight starts spanning 48 and 1/3 innings. That pitcher only walked 14 batters. What’s more, the first pitcher struck out 39, while the second has 36 thus far in the second half.
Stinnett’s development this year has been pretty consistent. If you go by month, the ERA has gone from 6.60 in April to 6.00 in May to 3.97 in July to 3.32 in August. That’s a pretty good progression of development in each month. Hits against have gone down, as have the walks he has issued.
Looking at some of his other splits status, he is striking out almost 7 batters per nine innings and walking a little over four. Hitters have a batting average of .332 on balls in play, which is high. I’ve often wondered if he might be better suited coming out of the pen; his pitches are so lively, he could just focus on two in shorter stints. But I think as young as his arm is, the Cubs will try and make him a starter with three plus-pitches.
And again, Stinnett doesn’t give up a lot of homers. The key to his future success is getting his walks down. His FIP results show a 4.05 compared to the 4.61 ERA, so he’s not that much different from where he should be.
The most striking statistical differences are seen in the home and away splits. At home, Stinnett has a 2.95 ERA in 10 games. On the road, he has a 6.75 ERA over nine games. In trying to figure out why, I looked at more of his numbers. His walks are about the same but the big difference is batting average against. On the road, hitters are heading .321 against Stinnett. That is unsustainable and also mysterious. What could cause such a difference?
- He could be comfortable with the mound in South Bend
- He might like to sleep in his own bed.
- Maybe it’s just pure coincidence or just plain bad luck.
As I watched his start on Saturday the 22nd, he pitched well again at home. He went 5 and 2/3 striking out 6, only walking 2, and giving up 3 hits and 2 earned runs. Innings 2 through 4 were flawless as he looked like he was just playing catch. He had good movement on all his pitches and was in control most of the game. The first run scored after a leadoff triple because when Rashad Crawford dove to catch a single, the ball hit off his glove and skidded all the way to the wall. This allowed the hitter to scamper all the way to third. He would later score on a sac fly. And sometimes, that is part of pitching, and that be a reason for his mysterious splits this year.
There were many people on the internet, including Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline, who thought that Stinnett would be a pitcher who could move quickly through the organization. I think he still can, but he has to learn to control his arsenal of pitches in order to do so. When it comes together for him, it won’t take much for him to repeat his success night in and night out. I could see it happening next year. It’s all about command for Stinnett.
At 23 years old, Stinnett still has a very young arm with very limited amount of innings; by my calculations, he’s still under 300 innings for the last five years. I noticed in the second half he’s taking a little bit off of everything to gain a little bit more control and it is showing up in the stats.
If you look at his game logs for the past two months, you’ll begin to see he used to only get through five innings in the first half of the year. He is now pitching six or seven innings on most nights. In the first half of the year, he was pretty inconsistent when it came to innings pitched. One night he would go five, the next start he would go five again, and then 2 and 2/3 innings. It wasn’t until June that he began to progress steadily from 5 to 6 to 7 innings. He did have one bad start in July where he only made it four innings, but since then he’s gone 6 2/3 innings or more 4 starts in a row.
Based upon what I have seen, I think Stinnett is starting to get the hang of it (key word – starting). I think we haven’t yet seen what he truly can do yet, but we’re starting to see him get better at what he does do. Working with David Rosario and Mark Johnson at Myrtle Beach in 2016 will strengthen Stinnett’s arm, his endurance, and his command of all three of his pitches.
After seeing what Rosario and Johnson have done the past two years with their stable of pitchers, it’s only natural to assume Stinnett and others will improve greatly next year. It’s going to take some time, but that’s what you want. You want your prospects to get better every year as they move through the system.