Well I always knew Kyle Drabek was going to be amazing and after his impressive 2011 season debut on Saturday, April 2nd, 2011 against the Minnesota Twins I think I have been proven correct.  Ok, so actually I was a bit rough on him in my Top Blue Jays prospects piece based on his so-so minor league resume and while one game doesn’t make a season and certainly doesn’t make a career his performance on Saturday was a step in the right direction.

The Minnesota Twins quite frankly looked lost against the relatively unknown major league commodity Kyle Drabek and Drabek took advantage carving up the Twins with a wide assortment of two and four seam fastballs and an effective cut fastball.  The cut fastball was especially effective on the outside corner of the plate against left-handed batters as Drabek caught a few Twins looking for strike three – though it appeared the strike zone at times was slightly favouring the pitcher. 

The Twins took feeble hacks most of the game during Drabek’s seven strong innings and his final line was pretty impressive – 7 IPs, 1 hit, 1 earned, 3 walks and 7 strikeouts.  It took him 101 pitches to get through seven innings and while his defense picked him up at times he was clearly in total command for most of the outing.

The seven strikeouts are extremely encouraging and although the league will adjust to Drabek as they learn his nuances a bit better an even better sign was the amount of worm burners he was inducing – 11 ground outs to only one fly out.  A look at the pitch f/x data will give us a more complete picture and I was especially curious to see how the cutter would look in terms of movement, velocity and placement. 

According to Brooks Baseball Drabek threw 14 cutters (9 for strikes, only 1 swinging) and the average horizontal break was 1.41 inches with an average speed of 90 MPH.  For comparison the wicked cutter of Mariano Rivera can move 2.5+ inches away from a righty, but that isn’t fair to any pitcher as he has made a living on one pitch and has obviously mastered it.

Here is another chart plotting horizontal movement with speed and pitch type.

Drabek changed speeds well, threw a variety of different fastballs to each side of the plate and flashed a pretty solid curveball at times as well.  Have a look at the vertical movement and horizontal movement of each pitch as well.

We have to temper our excitement and expectations given his age, lack of experience and in my mind still a suspect minor league track record but to not come away totally impressed with Kyle Drabek’s season debut is extremely imprudent.  Drabek’s next start should come Friday night (April 8th, 2011) against the L.A. Angels, I am sure a lot of eyes will be on that game to see just how he will follow up his stellar debut.

Let’s talk about Kyle Drabek and the Jays on TWITTER, follow me @tdotsports1

Toronto Blue Jays Coverage

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