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Breaking Down Dellin Betances' Double-A Debut

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Dellin Betances started a Double-A baseball game on June 30th. I guess we have to call it a 'debut', since it was his first start for Trenton since his demotion from the Traveling Triple-A Road Show. On the surface, the line looked awesome (6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO), and many looking at the box score will chalk this up as a step in the right direction. Thanks to the beauty of YouTube though, I was able to watch every single at-bat during his start, and I'm still coming away frustrated at what I see.

Let's start with the good...

  • Betances had good velocity on his fastball after starting off the first inning in the low-90s. He routinely sat in the mid-90s the rest of the game, while touching 97. His curveball continues to show the kind of movement that earned the pitch a plus grade in previous years.
  • There were some very quick outs collected, including two one pitch outs and a pair of two pitch outs. At times, Betances displayed efficiency with his pitches, and an ability to get ahead in the count and use it to his advantage when attacking hitters.
  • It only took him 91 pitches to get through six innings. As a pitcher who is now making his third stop at the Double-A level, we should come to expect this type of mastery.

More numbers and discussion after the jump...

I broke down every pitch of Betances start so you can get a better idea of how the start went based on the situation. The thing that still frustrates me is his delivery, as I still hate the folding of his back leg, that I believe leads to inconsistency in his location (most of you saw my piece on him earlier this year, but for those who haven't, proceed here).

Pitch Breakdown

Total Pitches Strikes Strike %
91 55 60%
Full Wind Up
53 33 62%
48 22 58%

I was a bit surprised by this, as it seemed while watching that Betances had better control of his stuff while pitching out of the stretch. This could be due to the fact that he faced Bryce Brentz twice in those situations, and was worked to a full count on both occasions. If you pull out the Brentz at-bats, his strike % out of the stretch becomes 64%. To me, this illustrates his struggles when putting away higher level hitters, as Brentz is probably the best hitter on the Portland team. Triple-A lineups have multiple hitters of that quality, so it makes sense that Betances had high pitch counts and walk totals at Triple-A (Brentz saw a total of 19 pitches, or 21% of Betances' total pitches).

Hits Walks Strikeouts Groundouts Flyouts
Wind Up 3 2 2 1 4
Stretch 0 1 3 1 3

Again, Betances seemed to have better control of his stuff out of the stretch, and this breakdown confirms that. While he did give up two stolen bases, he also picked a runner off.

Additional Interesting Stats

Full Counts 4
2-0 Counts 3
First Pitch Strikes 10

Betances threw a first pitch strike 45% of the time, a number that needs to improve significantly. Again, I'm surprised by this number, especially considering it only took him 91 pitches to get through six innings. When he found himself in full counts, he walked two batters, struck out one, and gave up a hit (to who else, Bryce Brentz).

In an interview he did the following day about his start, Betances notes many of his struggles at Triple-A were due to not being able to repeat his delivery, and it snowballing out of control to the point of him being demoted. This all makes perfect sense, but I question whether or not a trip to Double-A as a 'confidence builder' is truly what ails him. There are many more mechanical issues that need to be sorted out before he ever becomes a major league starting pitcher.

One hot topic of discussion the last time we broke down Betances was a potential move to the bullpen. Many believed these mechanical issues would hold him back no matter what role he pitched in, and I agreed with that thought process. Based on what I saw out of him from the stretch in his most recent start though, I'm beginning to wonder if the bullpen is really the most logical destination for him.

If the focus of the organization was to get him to throw out of a simplified stretch delivery, focusing on more consistent first pitch strikes, while throwing his two best pitches (fastball and curveball), could he be a high leverage big league reliever?

I'll let you hash that out, among other things, in the comments.