Earlier on Wednesday, our own esteemed Rob Neyer asked if it's time to start taking the Toronto Blue Jays seriously. They are, after all, a team with the best hitter in the world and a lot of good young talent spread around the pitching staff. One of those talented young arms is 23-year-old Kyle Drabek, a former first-round pick who came into the season as an AL Rookie of the Year contender. After Drabek blew through the minors, the Jays brought the prospect and his mid-90s fastball up to the bigs, looking for him to reach the next level.
It's only early June, but so far, Drabek has not reached the next level. If anything, he's gone backwards. The following is the summary of Drabek's entire start on Wednesday against the Cleveland Indians:
Drabek threw 38 pitches before getting pulled with two outs in the top of the first. Of those 38 pitches, only 15 were strikes. And more troubling is that this isn't an isolated incident. Well the start lasting two-thirds of an inning is an isolated incident, but the lousy control is very much not.
Drabek has now thrown 1,180 pitches on the season. Of those, only 647 have been strikes, for a rate of 55%. His best strike rate in any individual start so far is 62%, and that's still below the league average. And in ten of his 12 starts, he's failed to reach 60%.
Let's forget the individual starts and go back to the full-season numbers. Baseball-Reference allows us to go back to 2000 and sort pitcher seasons by strike rate. Here are the ten lowest strike rates posted since 2000 by pitchers who threw at least 100 innings:
Drabek - who's thrown 63-1/3 innings - has a strike rate of 54.8%. Meaning that Drabek is on pace to post the lowest strike rate of any regular starter over at least the past 12 years.
I don't know if Drabek's going to do it, if only because continued wildness will presumably get him sent back to the minors before he reaches the century mark, and in 2004, Steve Randolph posted a strike rate of 53.9% over 81-2/3 innings for Arizona. But even if Drabek doesn't set the recent record, the fact that he has a chance is alarming enough.
Drabek unquestionably has good stuff. He can miss bats. He can generate a decent number of ground balls. But his control right now is...out of...well it's really bad, and it's nowhere close to where it needs to be, or where the Jays would like it to be. Somehow they need to get this sorted out, because these days, Kyle Drabek is a mess.