It was a bit of a surprise that right handed pitcher Robert Stephenson was going to start for the Cincinnati Reds last night. He was the scheduled starter for the Triple-A Louisville Bats and Alfredo Simon was the scheduled starter for the Reds. That all changed when Simon told the team he was dealing with tendonitis in his throwing arm and the team announced that Stephenson would be recalled from Triple-A to step into the rotation, likely just for one start as they expect Simon to be ready to go the next time through the rotation.
In his big league debut, Robert Stephenson would throw 5.0 innings against the Philadelphia Phillies and allow three earned runs, picking up a victory along the way as the offense gave him a large lead to work with. It was a cold day, and it rained off-and-on, not the most ideal of conditions to pitch in. While Stephenson has purposefully toned down his velocity to try and gain more control of his fastball, he topped out at 95 MPH in his debut and averaged just 92.7 MPH with the pitch.
Last night the right hander took the mound against a much better offensive lineup than the one he faced in his debut, going up against the Colorado Rockies. Stephenson was up to the challenge and while he managed to strike out only three batters on the night, he had them off balance all night. The Rockies had four pop-ups in the game and a whole lot of weak grounders on bad swings. It led to 7.0 innings pitched on 105 pitches. In much better weather – it was nearly 40° warmer than in his debut less than two weeks ago, he was throwing harder and in an expect ranged. Let’s take a look at the comparison between the two starts from a pitch point of view (all data from Brooks Baseball).
|Date||FB Velo||Split Velo||CV Velo|
Everything was thrown with more velocity. The fastball was 2 MPH faster on average. The curveball was 2.7 MPH faster. The splitter picked up an extra tick. The additional velocity helped keep the hitters a bit more honest and gave them slightly less time to react. Here’s the comparison for his top velocities between the two starts:
|Date||Top FB||Top Split||Top CV|
With his averages up across the board, it’s not a shock to see his top velocities up as well. Last night he topped out at 97.2 MPH, but perhaps more impressive was the curveball he threw at nearly 84 MPH.
While the overall stat line from the game, and the final result was strong two things did stick out from the performance that go on the “could improve” side of the ledger. While there were only two walks in the game, only 60 of 105 pitches went for strikes. When he needed a strike, he was usually able to get one, but generally you want to see a higher percentage of strikes thrown than what Stephenson had last night.
The other thing was the consistency with the offspeed offerings. The splitter wasn’t at it’s best on the night, though his curveball was improved from his start against Philadelphia. In his minor league start between the two big league starts, his breaking ball and his splitter showed better than in either game with the Reds this season. That’s going to happen to just about every pitcher – hardly anyone takes their best stuff to the mound every game and the righty was able to get by quite well without his best stuff on Tuesday night. That speaks to the kind of stuff that he has, but there’s more in there that we didn’t see against the Rockies.
Updated: The Reds have optioned Robert Stephenson to Triple-A Louisville prior to the game today.