Shane Baz was phenomenal during his Major League debut Monday night, and that might be underselling just how electric Baz looked on the mound.
The 22 year old has made an incredible leap in his development during the 2021 season, all the while climbing the minor league ladder. Baz made 17 appearances in the minor leagues this season, split between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham, and compiled a 2.06 ERA with a ridiculous 37.9 K% to with an even more ridiculous 113:13 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 78 2⁄3 inning pitched.
When Baz was finished with his Major League debut on Monday, he proved his minor league success was no mirage. And any concerns lingering from profile assessments made regarding control or command from the 2017-2019 era were additionally put to bed when Baz turned in what was essentially an historic performance:
Shane Baz of @RaysBaseball threw 51 of his 65 pitches for strikes in his debut tonight (78.5%).— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) September 21, 2021
That's the highest strike percentage by any starting pitcher in his MLB debut since pitches were first tracked beginning in 1988.
Let’s breakdown his big league debut in all of its glory.
Facing one of the most potent offensive lineups in all of baseball, Baz would have his work cut out for him. However, the way he attacked the opposing hitters in the first inning showcased just how confident Baz was in his abilities and in using all of the pitches at his disposal.
Outfielder and former MVP candidate George Springer was the first player to face Baz. The first pitch of Baz’s career was a fastball that was off the plate, outside, a ball. Then Baz buckled down and fired three more fastballs to Springer, each one getting fouled off, each just a little harder than the last.
With the count 1-2 in his favor, Baz used his first secondary pitch, a devastating 87 mph slider. Although the pitch hung, in a very bad part of the plate, the speed difference was enough to fool Springer into flailing harmlessly for strike three.
After quickly retiring Marcus Semien on two pitches, it was current MVP candidate Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s turn to face Baz.
Guerrero Jr laid off of Baz’s first two offerings, and once he fell into a hitter’s count, he went on the attack. However, Baz was vicious over the next three pitches.
First, Baz threw a 2-0 slider. Guerrero Jr was geared up for a fastball and had seemingly decided to swing before Baz delivered the pitched. So when the offering came in at 84.6 mph, and sweeping away from the plate, Guerrero awkwardly swung passed the pitched for strike one. The next offering from Baz was nearly exact replica, except faster at 88.2 mph. The result was the same as Guerrero Jr took a mighty swing and missed the pitch again for strike two.
Now, with the count even, Baz turned back to the fastball, unleashing what would be his fastest pitch of the night; a 99.5 mph fastball that he blew by Guerrero Jr above the zone for strike three.
The following inning, Baz went right back to work as he battled with Bo Bichette for six pitches in a faceoff that featured a ball, a whiff, three foul balls, and then eventually a weakly hit groundball for the first out of the inning.
Bichette’s whiff came on yet another slider from Baz. With the count 1-1, Baz was able to jump ahead with an 85.2 mph slider at the bottom of the zone. Bichette was extremely early and flailed through the pitch to fall behind 1-2.
After Bichette’s groundout, Baz ran into his first trouble of the outing as he tried to get a high fastball passed Teoscar Hernandez. This resulted in Hernandez’s 29th homerun of the season, a blast that soared a couple of deeps just to right of the Ray Tank in right-center field.
It was the first time during his appearance that Baz started an at-bat with an off-speed pitch and Hernandez was expecting something else as he swung wildly at the 81 mph curveball, that just kept breaking away from the plate, for the first strike of the plate appearance.
Baz finished the frame by hounding Lourdes Gurriel Jr with an assortment of off-speed and breaking pitches that resulted in two whiffs and Baz’s third strikeout.
Breaking down that full at-bat, Baz started Gurriel Jr with a curveball that dropped right in the center of the zone; Gurriel Jr was badly fooled on the pitch as he flinched and braced in the batter’s box.
Baz would take control of the count with his next offering as he hurled an 87 mph slider through the zone that Gurriel Jr swung passed for strike two. Going for the stirkeout, Baz attempted another slider that broke out of the zone, but Gurriel was just barely able to lay off swinging at for a ball.
However, Baz’s next offering was nowhere near the zone, but Gurriel felt enticed enough to swing at as the slider broke down and away from him and into the dirt and smothered by Francisco Mejia behind the plate.
Here’s that sequence:
That would give Baz 10 swinging strikes through his first two innings on a big league mound against one of the best offenses in baseball. He would register four more whiffs over the rest of his outing, surrendering another homerun later on as well.
The two homeruns would be the only hits allowed by Baz. He also racked up five strikeouts and yielded zero walks. He had an impressive strike percentage as 78.5% of his 65 pitches were strikes.
Three of his four remaining whiffs came against Marcus Semien, Vladimir Guerrero Jr, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr; All three came on his off-speed offerings, two sliders and a curveball. Here’s those three:
Baz would face his final batter, outfielder Randal Grichuk, just after he surrendered his second solo homerun of the evening with two outs in the top of the 5th.
Baz started off Grichuk by pumping two upper 90’s fastballs right over the outside edge of the plate. Grichuk watched both pitches blaze passed him, both for called strikes as they were perfectly located by Baz.
Then, to end his big league debut, Baz drops perhaps his best slider/curveball of the entire night as it drops right out of the bottom of the zone and passed the off swing of Grichuk for strike three.
This was an incredible outing for a rookie’s first go. In the morning after some of baseball twitter’s best pundits were applauding.
Liam Hendriks and Josh Sborz are tied for the least fastball fall at 10.2 Inches (lower is better).— #2 Baseball Analyst Nick Willis Jr. (@nickwillisjr) September 21, 2021
Shane Baz had 10.1 in his debut. He leads all starters in Vertical Movement above average.
That's a lot of green (percentiles among pitchers with at least 25 fastballs thrown this season): pic.twitter.com/OwFZ4aNSSN— R.J. Anderson (@r_j_anderson) September 21, 2021
Thus, Shane Baz’s Major League debut is now a matter of record and - given his elite level of performance - his next outing will be just as highly anticipated as his debut.