There have been a lot of guys invited to the Phillies’ spring training camp. Some of them you know, some you probably went “who?” when you heard their name called. So, let’s take some time to introduce you to a few that might have a future in the organization. We’re gonna start with a player who is no fan of the Lone Star state, Reggie McClain.
McClain came to the Phillies via a waiver claim at the end of January. He wasn’t more than an organizational arm in the Mariners’ system, not showing up on Fangraphs or Baseball Prospectus’ top prospects lists of 2019. Looking at his baseball card numbers (14 G, 21 IP, 6.00 ERA, 11.6 K%, 13.7 BB%), you’d think that the Mariners were wise to let him go since they’re nothing special and they felt they had better players to protect. However, there is a little explaining to do about why those numbers were so unimpressive.
Most of the damage done against McClain in 2019 was done against the Astros. When pitching against that team, McClain allowed 10 hits, 11 runs, 6 walks and registered only three strikeouts. When facing everyone else, he allowed three runs on 13 hits in 19 innings. From what we know now about the Astros and their behind the scenes shenanigans they’ve committed in the past, it’s exactly these type of imbalances in a player’s stats that more than raise the eyebrows. It causes them to lift into the sky like a person ascending to heaven.
Matt Gelb took a look at this occurrence a few days ago in a fascinating interview and broached the possibility that the Astros were stealing his signs with McClain. To his credit, McClain would rather not look backwards on the topic, instead looking to focus on trying to earn a job in spring training.
“You could say those things about pretty much anybody,” McClain said. “I don’t put myself in a special category. I’m just like every other pitcher who has a couple of bad outings. So, what happened happened, and I am ready to move forward.”
While he might be done with the issue, some inquiring minds would still like to know if there were any sinister happenings during those Astros games. So, I decided to back and watch every pitch of McClain’s during his Mariners-Astros showdowns. Just going off an untrained ear and the fact that the previously reported trash can bangings were clearly audible on the home team’s broadcast if you know what you’re looking for, we can try and see if there was anything noticable. From what I gathered, I didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary whenever the Astros’ hitters were facing off against McClain. He just happened to pitch quite badly in Minute Maid Park. Now, we don’t know if there were some concealed electronic devices being used by the hitters, but just from watching the pitches McClain threw, it was no wonder the batters hit the ball out of the ballpark so much and so often. So I also looked at were McClain was serving the ball up during these particular games.
Aug. 2, 2019: 1 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 2 HR
Well, there is a lot to unpack. Looking at the final line, you’d think that this was a game that got away from him, but McClain gave up two home runs this game and when you go back and look at the location of these pitches, it isn’t difficult to see why.
This home run was hit by Carlos Correa:
This pitch was hit for a home run by Aledmys Diaz:
The first one to Correa was a fastball, the second a hanging slider to Diaz. When pitches are put in these spots, they are going to be hit a long way.
Sept. 6, 2019: 1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 BB
By clicking on that link, you’ll see that McClain left a lot of pitches in the middle of plate, pitches that are hittable by any batter in the major leagues, no matter the team they play for. Specifically, these balls were hit for extra bases.
This ball was hit by Alex Bregman for a double:
This ball was hit by Yulieski Gurriel for a single:
These pitches are dead red, middle of the plate fastballs that are going to be hit, a majority of the time, hard. Major league players do not need to know what’s coming when they see this headed their way. More often than not, pitches left in these spots are going to be hit.
Sept. 8, 2019: 1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 2 BB
In this game, there isn’t one specific pitch that makes you sit and go “whoa”, but clicking on that link and looking at where the pitches he threw ended up in the zone, it shouldn’t be too surprising that he was hit and hit hard this game.
It’s hard to get passed the feeling that perhaps Houston did know what McClain was throwing. After all, the evidence that we’ve seen this offseason doesn’t allow Houston to have the benefit of the doubt when it comes to deciding for yourself what you choose to believe. Looking at the evidence of where McClain put his pitches that got hit, it also is plausible that perhaps he just had three of his worst games against the same team. It isn’t the first time it has happened to a player and it certainly won’t be the last.
McClain probably has a pretty decent chance to make the initial Opening Day roster. If nothing else, he’ll be logging a lot of miles traveling back and forth between Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia. Let’s just hope the team doesn’t invite him down to Houston when they go down there in July.