The first thing I’m going to say about Eddie Butler‘s debut is that I think it’s going to get better from here. The second thing I’m going to say is that it was Butler’s first start above AA, and a game against the Dodgers in Coors is a tough ask for any pitcher, let alone a rookie who just jumped over AAA. Now to the actual start, which, although not very good, has to be considered an improvement over the pitching against the Diamondbacks. Butler’s problem last night is that his control was, well, too good.
Throwing the ball down the middle in AA might work well, but it definitely does not in the big leagues, and Eddie Butler learned that from his second major league pitch, a ball Dee Gordon hit past Justin Morneau into right field for a triple. In the end, Butler gave up six runs on 10 hits in five and a third innings. Not great, and I could go into all the poor things I saw last night, because their were a few. But because we are all in a grumpy mood as the Rockies keep losing and continue to fall out of the playoff race, I’m instead going to look at some of the good things I saw from Eddie Butler last night.
First of all, this guy throws hard, and although I knew he wasn’t a guy who threw in the upper 80s, his velocity surprised me. On the night, he averaged 93.6 miles per hour on his 67 four-seam fastballs, and touched 96 on multiple occasions. That’s always a good thing, and Butler’s fastball looks like it is going to be a good pitch. Over time, this guy needs to turn into a strikeout pitcher, but the strikeouts just aren’t there right now. Before striking out just two guys last night, Butler had a 5.24 K/9 rate in AA, which is underwhelming to say the least.
The problem is quite obvious: Eddie Butler doesn’t have the offspeed stuff to generate swings and misses. That was really the biggest issue about his first start. Butler didn’t generate many swings and misses, and threw just three changeups, 10 sliders, and five cutters to go alongside his 67 four-seam pitches. The changeup in particular needs work, as it just isn’t slow enough. He was throwing the change in the 87 range, and if he can get that down to 83 or 84, it could be slow enough to generate some valuable swings and misses.
The second thing I like about Eddie Butler is, again, his control. It was to his detriment yesterday, but Butler was around the strike zone all night, and I think his three walks are misleading. This is a guy who throws strikes, and when he learns to vary his pitches a little bit more, I think that will become another strength. Hitters hit .417 on balls in play against him yesterday, and that won’t continue to happen. So I think Butler should be able to stick around, and I like him to land as a middle-of-the-rotation type guy. He wasn’t good last night, and there is clear room for improvement, but I think his mistakes were fixable, and one thing he didn’t do was let the ball sail over the wall, something that’s easier said than done at Coors.
As for the rest of the game, the Rockies were never really in position to win it. They left a ton (11) guys on base, and there weren’t many great performances on the offensive side. Drew Stubbs did homer against lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu in the sixth inning and double in the game, and has continued to have a very impressive season, raising his triple slash line to .325/.363/.500. Troy Tulowitzki had two singles, but the other run, also scored in the sixth, came from the unlikely combination of a Michael McKenry double and a Charlie Culberson triple.
In relief of Butler, the bullpen was, well, better than it has been recently, as after the ever-reliable Tommy Kahnle (I know I love the guy, but he’s seriously the best pitcher in this bullpen) retired two hitters, Matt Belisle rebounded from his DISASTER of an inning against the Diamondbacks to have a relatively easy inning, while Nick Masset couldn’t throw strikes but escaped without allowing a run. The evening couldn’t be complete without the bullpen allowing a run, and sure enough LaTroy Hawkins gave one up, albeit an unearned one. In the end the game ended 7-2 and will be remembered as Eddie Butler’s first start in a fine career (fingers crossed).
Today it looks like the Rockies have another taunting task ahead of them, as they’ll pitch the struggling Jhoulys Chacin (5.51 ERA) against Zack Greinke (2.50). Let’s hope the team surprises us and ends their eight game losing streak (worst since September 2012), but I’m not going to get my hopes up.