Geeking Out Over Kevin Gausman’s Major League Debut

Geeking Out Over Kevin Gausman’s Major League Debut

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Kevin GausmanMaybe his final line didn’t show it (5 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 89 pitches), but you could tell from his debut that Kevin Gausman is going to be something special in the big leagues. I wanted to hold off on evaluating and jumping to any conclusions until I was able to take a look at the PITCHf/x data and re-watch these 89 pitches on MLB.tv. I was so damn excited to watch the kid that any instant analysis would have just been Orioles fanboy cheerleadery junk.

I suppose the place to start is with Gausman’s velocity. According to the data from BrooksBaseball.net, Gausman maxed out his fastball at 99.45 MPH and averaged 97.26. It’s a very smooth delivery, nothing voilent. His high leg kick reminds me of Roy Halladay‘s.

He worked the four-seamer up in the zone and the Blue Jays hitters had a tough time catching up to it. I watched Matt Wieters set him up low several times and saw him miss the spot, but the heat was often too much to handle. His strikeout of Jose Bautista in the fifth inning particularly sticks out in my mind.

Kevin Gausman strikes out Jose Bautista

We heard a lot about the development of Gausman’s slider heading into his debut. In short, it has potential, but this is his first season using it as his primary breaking ball. Last night, however, it wasn’t. Gausman threw five sliders and six curveballs. His breaking pitches were thrown between 83-85 MPH and, as the scouting reports read, he wasn’t afraid to set guys up with them.

J.P. Arencibia saw a first pitch curveball for ball one in the bottom of the second and he drove a first pitch slider to left field for an RBI double in the bottom of the fourth. Gausman threw him a fastball in his third at-bat, but he drove that 369 feet for a two run homer. Wieters setup for the pitch was low and outside, it ran in on his hands about belt-high.

The fourth inning told us a lot about Gausman. He allowed a pair of doubles to Adam Lind and the aforementioned Arencibia, then a bunt single to Brett Lawrie and a bases loaded walk to Colby Rasmus. After a visit from Rick Adair, Emilio Bonifacio hit a sac fly on the fifth straight fastball he saw (after falling behind 3-0), Munenori Kawasaki popped on his second of two fastballs and Melky Cabrera lined out to center on a first pitch 95 MPH four-seamer. He relies heavily on the fastball and goes right after hitters with it.

My other takeaway from the inning was his mound presence through these struggles. I think I was more stressed watching on TV than Gausman was throwing a 3-0 pitch with the bases loaded in his Major League Debut. Buster Olney tweeted it looked like Gausman has been pitching in the big leagues for years. “Completely at ease,” he wrote.

Clearly command was a concern in his first start. We watched him make up for it with a lot of velocity. Ken Rosenthal tweeted that a scout told him Gausman lost feel for his fastball after mixing in too many breaking pitches. Perhaps that was the problem or maybe it was just an off day for his control.

Either way there’s a lot to look forward to for Gausman. The changeup was moving just like we were told it would and his comfort on the mound is incredibly encouraging. I’m looking forward to Tuesday already.