During Monday night’s contest against the Atlanta Braves, the Tampa Bay Rays made some franchise history as the pitching staff combined to strikeout 19 players in nine inning game, breaking the previous team mark of 18. which they had reached but failed to surpass five times before.
Tyler Glasnow gets the first attention because he was the starter and racked up nine K’s through four innings. However, the third pitcher that Kevin Cash turned to in relief was Jalen Beeks, and he managed to collect seven strikeouts of his own over just three innings of work, earning a secondary honor: Whiff King of Whiff City.
This performance came after his initial outing on ‘Opening Day’ in which he struck out five in just two innings of work.
Thus far in the brief 2020 season, Jalen Beeks has thrown a total of 83 pitches and opposing hitters have swung and missed at 24 of those offerings, giving Beeks an early season whiff rate of 28.9%.
Those 24 whiffs are the most in all of baseball, tying him with Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds on count total, but with his 28.9% endging him to the top mark in MLB.
Beeks arsenal over his two appearances has consisted of a fastball, change-up, and what systems are calling a cutter.
In the early running, it’s a solid three pitch mix in which he almost equally relies on all three offerings with a slight edge given to his change-up (thrown 37 times). Notably, he seems to have abandoned his curveball that he used nearly a 1/5th of the time in 2019.
Prior to the season, Beeks spoke to Arkansas Online and shared some of the details that have helped him improve on the mound since the Rays acquired him at the 2018 trade deadline.
“When I got to the Rays, they looked at the analytics and told me, ‘Your change-up is good,’” Beeks said. “‘We want you to throw it harder and throw it more.’ It’s tough to explain, but you’re chasing spin and more side-to-side spin, you will have more drop and run on the ball.
Another switch, albeit a subtle one, is that he has moved on the mound. Beeks already had a propensity for pitching from the third base side of the rubber but thus far in 2020, he has taken it to the extreme and is seemingly barely in contact in the rubber.
As in... is he even touching it anymore?
Perhaps the slight change on the rubber has given him better run on his change-up, in turn leading to his ramped up usage of the pitch. Meanwhile, his “cutter” usage has gone up from 5.7% in 2019 to 21.7% in 2020.
During the 2019 season, hitters whiffed on just 8 of Beeks cutters, he already has three in 2020.
Beeks has a quirky delivery that is filled with deception for opposing hitters. He has managed to find a similar release point for his trifecta of pitches, but with the opposite break at similar speeds between his change-up and cutter, helping to create a very difficult combination for batters to square up.
Of course this is just two appearances and a very small sample size to examine, but by the looks of it (despite a couple team errors like a passed ball that led to base runners early in last night’s outing), Jalen Beeks has all the makings of the next great stars in the Tampa Bay Rays bullpen.
It’s too early to say Beeks has emerged as a top arm in Tampa Bay’s deep bullpen, but his strong couple outings is a welcomed relief in a season of great uncertainty.
There’s still a lot of season to play, but as for Week 1?
Get this man a crown.