[Ed. note – today we have a guest post from Alex Eisenberg of Baseball-Intellect.com on Memphis relief pitcher Jess Todd. Todd is making the switch from starter to reliever in Memphis this season, and many believe he could be on the short list for a callup to St Louis at some point this season. Alex breaks down his mechanics and pitches today. You might remember Alex’s work from a previous post here that linked to Alex’s analysis of shortstop prospect Nico Vasquez‘ swing. Thanks Alex!]
The St. Louis Cardinals recently ended any debate over whether Jess Todd‘s value would be best served in the bullpen or on the mound as a starter. Evidently, the Cardinals decided on bullpen. And while it’s possible Todd would make for a solid No. 4 or 5 starter, the numbers and his overall stuff worked against him. Let’s do a brief overview of the kind of stuff Todd possesses:
Fastball – his two-seamer sits in the 89 – 92 mph range with a little sink. Todd also has a four-seamer that cuts across the plate and can reach 94, but more often sits at 91 or 92. He controls both of his fastballs well though there are times he’ll battle with his command.
Slider – thrown in the mid-80’s, Todd has excellent command of the late breaking, two-plane pitch…he’s able to generate plenty of awkward swings because the pitch comes in on the same plane and from the same arm slot as his fastball. You can see the slider on top and fastball on bottom:
Change-Up – Todd has a solid feel for the pitch, but it’s inconsistent and still developing…the pitch won’t be too much of a factor for him out of the bullpen
Because of the so-so change-up and a fastball that is closer to average and plus, Todd’s profile would best be suited out of the bullpen.
What the Numbers Tell Us
Looking over his splits, some concerns arise. Against lefties, Todd sees his K-rate drop and BB-rate rise. However, he counters that by generating more ground balls against lefties, which leads to less homeruns.
We also see that Todd seems to lose some luster off the quality of his stuff as the game wears on. His splits:
IP – K/9, BB/9, HR/9, BABIP
1st – 8.14, 2.22, .37, .250
2nd – 11.47, 3.70, .74, .196
3rd – 8.17, 1.42, .36, .213
4th – 7.04, 3.13, 1.17, .323
5th – 4.98, 2.08, 1.66, .262
6th – 4.00, 2.50, 1.00, .140
It’s a small sample size, but Todd’s splits also show a big difference in production:
As Starter – 7.61 K/9, 2.58 BB/9, 1.06 HR/9, 47.1 GB%
As Reliever – 9.95 K/9, 1.42 BB/9, 0.00 HR/9, 67.3 GB%
As I mentioned earlier, Todd doesn’t have elite stuff, but his pitching acumen is excellent and he knows how to get hitters out by exploiting their weaknesses. This is what gave Todd a chance to be a starter at the MLB level if the Cardinals decided to go in that direction. When he’s going strong, Todd is able to pound the strike zone aggressively.
Todd’s mechanics are mostly clean and he repeats them well. He’s sorta a tall-and-fall pitcher, but he’s able to lead with his hips by employing a tilting of the shoulders. He then uses what is called a “step-over” move where it looks as if he’s stepping over an imaginary object. The move enables Todd to increase his stride length and it kick-starts an aggressive hip rotation. Yeah, there’s some effort to his delivery, but I think it’s more of a perceived effort because of the busy lower body actions Todd employs.
Todd is basically maxed out in terms of stuff. He’s not a physically big pitcher, standing at just 5-foot-11 and the mechanical inefficiencies you see in some pitchers with good velocity potential aren’t really there for Todd.
When you take all the above factors into account, it appears the Cardinals made the right decision. That’s not to say he couldn’t be an effective starter, but Todd’s stuff plays up better out of the bullpen and he’ll be more effective going through a line-up just once instead of multiple times as a starter. His ability to go more than one inning at a time will also be a valuable asset to the Cardinal bullpen once he’s called up, which could be as early as mid-season.
This article is a part of Baseball-Intellect’s Cardinals top prospect list, which you can read below:
Alex breaks down major and minor league players by using sabermetric and video analysis at the website Baseball Intellect. He’s also done regular work for the Hardball Times and Baseball Digest Daily. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.