Last week in Buffalo, Tampa Bay Rays infielder Brett Phillips took the mound to pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays in a blowout at Sahlen Field.
The performance was maddening.
First, let’s note that Phillips is a bit of an odd duck. Here’s exhibit A.
So when Phillips took the mound, something odd was expected to happen. And it did. Let’s take a look.
So on his very first pitch, Phillips hit 94 MPH with his fastball. That’s fastest than most of the guys in both of these “fastest pitches by position players” compilation.
Wildly, I was at the game in Texas where Danny Valencia pitched for the Orioles.
Back to Phillips, what gets maddening about his performance is everything that follows that first pitch.
On Phillips first pitch, he has a normal windup, normal delivery, and throws absolute gas. After that first pitch, every pitch is between 46 and 51 MPH. His delivery goes from that from a guy who has clearly paid baseball before to looking like a dad pitching in the family wiffle ball game to a four-year old.
This isn’t a situation like Zach Greinke, where he’ll throw an eephus pitch after 51 immediately after throwing a 90 MPH fastball. Phillips wasn’t doing this to change speeds. He just……did it to show he can do it? I’m not really sure why he did it.
When Stevie Wilkerson got a save in Anaheim in 2019, he didn’t throw a pitch faster than 56 MPH. Presumably because he didn’t have another gear as a pitcher and was just effective with the slow junk.
So what exactly are we doing here? I understand that the game was already out of hand and Phillips was only pitching because the Rays were already getting blown out. But to show 94 MPH and then never throw it again is maddening. And not just because I’m an old man masquerading as a rookie wiffle ball pitcher who does not throw a quality fastball. This ultimately still a Major League Baseball game and ostensibly teams should be playing to win. Phillips was on the mound and chose to show his best stuff, and then never use it again. At the end of the day, he was not giving his best effort on the mound. Yeah, it was good for a chuckle but what’s the point?
Wildly, Phillips isn’t the only player to do this. Willians Astudillo, who has infamously thrown 47 MPH junk as a position player a few times, did the same thing against the White Sox in May. On his second pitch, he
In Astudillo’s defense though, his fastball topped at at 75. That’s more likely to get hit to Mars than junk at 47.
I’d rather watch a guy like Wilkerson who is consistently throwing slow instead of a guy like Phillips mocking the game by showing 94 and then throwing meatballs the rest of the inning.