Last night the Phillies top 2010 draft pick Jesse Biddle made his second start in the Florida State League for Clearwater against the Lakeland Flying Tigers. This time it was at home for the Threshers but it went much like his first start of the season last week in Dunedin. He struck out the opponents with his curve ball but was hit hard when he threw his fastball in the strike zone. He again lasted into the fifth inning before Manager Chris Truby had to go get him after giving up five runs on seven hits.
Like in last weeks start Biddle’s was able to get strike outs on his curve ball but had trouble locating his fastball. He was constantly behind in the count. Rather than using his curve ball on 3-2 full counts he came in with his fast ball, got too much of the plate and was hit hard. He did rack up seven strike outs, all on his curve ball. Four of his strike outs were called. All of his strike outs were on curve balls. Of his 12 strike outs in his first two starts, seven have been called third strikes mostly on his curve balls. Jesse has a great breaking pitch but he has trouble locating his fastball.
In a way Biddle reminds me of another Phillies left hander Cole Hamels. Cole throws a fastball around 90 mph like Jesse but rather than a curve ball as his out pitch he uses the change up to get his strike outs. Hamels seemed to take the next step last season when he came up with a cutter that put some movement on his fastball. It seems in addition to better command Jesse will need to come up with a cutter to get some movement on his fastball too if he is to move up in the Phillies system.
It will be interesting to see how Biddle develops this season at high A. Last night he seemed to throw more curve balls to start the game. In his first start he seemed to start throwing mostly fast balls. By pitching backwards he seemed to be trying to get them off his fastball but it did not work.
It is rare to have more called than swing and miss third strikes. For example last year Vance Worley was the only starter in the National League to have more called than swinging strike outs at 52%. Cliff Lee was second at 41%. Biddle in his first two games is getting called strikeouts at 58% of his total strike outs. He is getting more strike outs than innings pitched. However he is working long counts resulting in a high number of pitches. He is yet to make it to the fifth inning.
Last night Biddle seemed to be up in the zone with his fastball and paid the price with many hard hit balls that cost him along with the high pitch counts. The season has just started but the Phillies must have some concern over Biddle’s struggles in his first two games at high A.