2021 Dive into Jameson Taillon

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Through his first seven starts, Jameson Taillon has put up a 5.40 ERA and 4.46 FIP over 33 1/3 innings pitched. His eight home runs allowed are tied for the fourth-most in the majors. His 74 ERA+ means he has been 26% worse than the league average. With a -0.2 bWAR and 0.4 fWAR, there is a lot to dislike about his numbers thus far. The New York Yankees have a pitching staff that has been one of the best in the league. That notwithstanding, Taillon has a high ceiling and will be counted on down the stretch by New York. Luckily there are more than just results-based stats by which to judge Taillon’s performance. In diving into his advanced numbers, there have been some bright spots for Taillon.

Striking Out More Batters

With 43 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings, Taillon’s 11.6 K/9 is the best of his career. Taillon’s 2018 is widely regarded as the best season of his career to date. In that year, he had 2.2 BB/9 and posted a K/BB ratio of 3.89. So far in 2021, his eight walks amount to a 2.2 BB/9. Additionally, his 43 strikeouts to 8 walks give him a career-best 5.38 K/BB. With fastball and curveball spin rates that rank in the 84th percentile, Taillon has good stuff that shows he can continue striking-out batters at his current rate.

Of course, moving from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Yankees comes with a change in pitching philosophy. He has completely abandoned his sinker while throwing his four-seam fastball much more. Another effect of moving to New York is more home runs. His 5.7% home run rate and 18.6% HR/FB rate are by far the highest of his career, as is his 2.2 HR/9. He has only had seven starts, so this might just be a small sample size, but the home runs are definitely something to watch out for.

Expected Numbers

Look no further than Taillon’s expected numbers for evidence that he has been better than it seems. His 3.00 xERA and 3.56 xFIP are vastly lower than his ERA and FIP. Additionally, his 3.10 SIERA portrays a pitcher whose batted-ball profile does not reflect a pitcher with a 5.40 ERA. Per Baseball Savant, his xERA, xwOBA, and xBA all rank in the 75th percentile or better in the league. While his xSLG ranks in the more pedestrian 57th percentile, it still goes to show that he has been better under the surface.

On the surface, Taillon’s fastball has produced the worst results. He throws that pitch 50.4% of the time and has been hurt by opposing hitters when it’s left up in the zone. Opponents have batted .250 with a .567 SLG and .367 wOBA. On the other hand, batters have produced an xBA of .183, a .388 xSLG, and .266 xwOBA. He throws the curveball 22.3% of the time and it is a pitch that also has great expected results. Hitters have a .250 BA, .250 SLG, and .285 xwOBA with an xBA of .192, xSLG of .238, and xwOBA of .256. Jameson Taillon has been inconsistent thus far in 2021, but only time will tell if his surface numbers can eventually mirror his expected metrics.

Batted-Ball Metrics

Jameson Taillon’s strength with the Pirates was limiting hard contact. So far, he has an average exit velocity of 89.9 mph, which is higher than his career average of 87.8 mph. This ranks in the 32nd percentile in all of baseball. Meanwhile, his 12.5% barrel rate is nearly double his previous career-high. He has allowed an average launch angle of 19.2 degrees, which is a product of multiple things. First, Taillon has made a concerted effort to throw his fastball up in the zone, leading to more fly balls. Second, more fastballs up in the zone have also lead to fewer ground balls. His career launch angle currently stands at 9.9 degrees. The higher launch angle has resulted in a career-low groundball rate of 37.5% and a career-high flyball rate of 48.9%. Interestingly enough, Taillon’s 13.6% line-drive rate is the lowest of his career.

Additionally, Taillon’s sweet spot rate of 31.8% is better than his career average. His 38.6% hard-hit rate is worse than his career norms yet still better than 2019. What all of this shows is that despite batters hitting the ball harder against Taillon, there are some promising signs to dissect within his batted-ball profile.

Final Thoughts

Jameson Taillon is a 29-year old with 499 1/3 innings and two Tommy John surgeries under his belt. He has not only altered his pitch usage in 2021 but also changed his pitch delivery. The Yankees traded for him because of his high ceiling, relatively cheap cost, and years of control. His seven-start-stretch to begin his Yankees career has not been great, but it is promising. Expected statistics are useful for predicting future performance and they certainly favor Taillon thus far. They portray a pitcher who may be getting unlucky and should have better results. Jameson Taillon is a good pitcher whose numbers do not quite reflect that so far.

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