My expectations were low for Zach Britton heading into his start against the dangerous Tigers on Tuesday night. Detroit leads all of baseball in batting average (.281), on base percentage (.348) and is third in slugging percentage (.776) I just didn’t think those numbers mixed well against a guy like Britton, who has pitched to a 1.491 career WHIP over 220 2/3 innings pitched in the big leagues.
Apparently, I was wrong. You can’t predict baseball.
Britton’s stat line looks pretty average: 5 1/3 innings pitched, five hits, one earned run, three walks, and a strikeout, but I was impressed with his approach against Detroit’s lineup. He didn’t seem intimidated by the big bats in pressure situations and was comfortable enough with his stuff to pitch to contact.
Eight of the sixteen outs Britton recorded were on the ground and he worked the lower third of the strikezone effectively. Here’s a look at his strikezone plot with at-bat results per the PITCHf/x data on BrooksBaseball.net.
Of those eight pitches in the lower third of the of the zone, Britton forced four groundouts, a pop out, a strikeout, a walk and a single. The lone run he gave up, a solo homer to Matt Tuiasosopo, was a pitch he left over the middle of the plate.
Perhaps the most encouraging part of Britton’s start was his ability to work out of jams. In the bottom of the fourth he battled back after walking Victor Martinez and forced Jhonny Peralta to fly out to center on a 3-2 slider. Then in the fifth, Britton surrendered a two-out walk to Austin Jackson and an infield single to Torii Hunter on a flukey groundball that hit off his glove, but forced the always dangerous Miguel Cabrera to ground out to second on a 2-0 fastball.
Overall, I was very impressed with what I saw from Britton in his outing on Tuesday, especially after how poorly he pitched in his first start this season against the Mariners. He’s a guy who has shown positive signs at Triple-A (3-2 with a 3.28 ERA in his last 11 games with the Tides) and his hard work translated into results at the big league level. He’s a guy I’d like to see get another chance with the O’s.