You’ve likely already seen the score in the above headline, so you come to these words with a pretty good sense with how this game played out. The Phillies starter got shelled and the offense wasn’t able to do much against his White Sox counterpart.
We could talk about the details, such as how Jake Thompson—the Phillies starter on this particular evening—couldn’t seem to throw strikes and walked twice as many batters as he struck out. Or about how, when he did throw strikes, they had a tendency to get hit hard, especially in the form of two triples (Tim Anderson in the third; Adam Eaton in the first) and two dingers (Jose Abreu and Justin Morneau in the fifth). Or, how he only managed two strikeouts against a lineup that doesn’t lack for strikeouts.
On the offensive side, we could talk about the three hits and one walk they managed against a starter who has had some difficulty limiting baserunners this season. Or, maybe, we could dwell on Freddy Galvis’ monster solo home run in the seventh inning, if we were the glass half-full type.
Those events listed in the above two paragraphs happened, and now you know they happened due to you having (presumably) read those words. For my purposes, that’s enough for your understanding. This game wasn’t pretty from a pure @didthephilswin perspective, not only because the response is “no,” but because that could just as truthfully be written as “OH HELL NO.”
But, let’s talk about Jake Thompson. He didn’t pitch well, let’s get that out of the way. There’s only so much spin I can put on a five-inning, eight-hit, four-walk, seven-run line, especially when he only had two strikeouts.
From the outset of this season, we all basically agreed on one thing: wins and losses don’t matter. Instead, what matters is the performance of younger players who have a chance to become cornerstones of this franchise. Jake Thompson is one of those guys, and, again, he didn’t pitch well, again.
But, as John Stolnis reminded us Monday, Jake Thompson is still young, he’s only 22. As such, he’s not a finished product. What’s important, then, is not the bulk of his work, but the trees within that ragged forest—and a 9.78 ERA through four starts is about as ragged as a forest comes—that look a little more stable.
What were those stable elements? Well, unfortunately, there weren’t many, and even the ones we saw—strikeouts of Avisail Garcia and Todd Frazier on sliders—were weakened in their power by the inconsistency with which they came. For every slider that looked crisp, three were loopy and hit a long way. But the ones that looked crisp, looked the part of a solid major league pitch.
Following the Phillies in 2016, we’re in the business of fixating on glimpses around these parts, and tonight’s start didn’t feature a lack of glimpses. A scarcity, sure, but not a total lack. We again return to the aspect of Jake Thompson John wrote about earlier: he’s young. He’s dominated AAA and received the major-league ready label early this season, but that doesn’t mean he’s a finished project.
The glimpses of what could become finished are what are important and the glimpses we got from Thompson, specifically on his two swinging strikeouts of competent major league hitters, were there. They weren’t there very often. He wouldn’t have given up seven runs if they were there often. But they were there, and that’s what matters for a 22-year old pitcher in a lost season.
It’s ok to be nervous about Thompson—good starting pitchers rarely look this bad, even at the beginning of their careers—but it is too early to enter a full-on freak out. He’s thrown the most innings he has in his professional career—hell, his life—this season. What we’re seeing is a 22-year old who is likely short on gas making his first pitches against major league hitters. There are a lot of good, non-damning reasons this hasn’t been pretty.
That’s not a promise that his next start, or even his career will be pretty. But, it is sufficient reason to not obsess over the aesthetics of his debut season. You shouldn’t rest easy, but you should at least rest.