Adalberto Mondesi

RECAP: Who Is Heath Fillmyer?

Is Heath Fillmyer good?

Well, that’s a complicated question. He was really good against the Pirates on Wednesday night. He was pretty good against Baltimore back on Sept. 1, but put a huge asterisk there—my one-year old could pitch short relief against Baltimore if we could figure out which hand is his dominant hand yet. He was great against the Cubs in early August, when he earned his first win.

So he can be really good. But he can also get his butt kicked like he did against Minnesota a week after the Baltimore game, or against Chicago exactly a month ago. He was lackluster in a previous August start against the Twins and against Toronto right before the White Sox debacle. There’s no rhyme or reason to it; his two worst starts were on the road, but so was Wednesday’s performance. He beats Cleveland and gets destroyed by Minnesota. He limits contact, but he also walks more than you’d care to see and he doesn’t really strike people out.

The Royals lost, but that doesn’t do much for cracking this enigma—the Royals lose all the time, to teams great and terrible and the Pirates are somewhere in between. He put at least one runner on in five of seven innings, and one—the fifth—featured Adam Frazier’s go-ahead home run… and yet he only allowed two runs. He struck out five—one off his career high—and walked zero for the first time in an MLB start, so there’s some progress there? Hey, I’d like to have better news if I’m gonna have this guy in my life every five days.

Clint, who is smarter than me or you, shared this…

… which checks out, to a certain point. Would it be less effective if he threw it more often than the 13.3 percent of the time he used it, according to Brooks Baseball? Maybe. It has a little more to it than your typical straight change—a little bite, a little verve. It’s possible that’s mitigated if batters start to see it more than once every seven-to-eight pitches. It’s possible nothing would happen and he’d remain the same head-scratching arm he is every time out.

Boy. Used a lot of words on Fillmyer there, but that’s partly because not much happened in this 2-1 loss to close out the series in Pittsburgh. Frazier’s homer we talked about. Colin Moran’s run-scoring sac fly in the second put the Pirates on the board first, Adalberto Mondesi’s homer an inning later tied it and Frazier’s blast in the fifth put the Pirates ahead for good.

The defense did help Fillmyer out a bit. In the very first inning, Josh Bell doubled and Francisco Cervelli hit Fillmyer’s next offering into center for a single. Bell decided to test Whit Merrifield’s arm in center; people underestimate Whit at their peril, as Mr. Bell discovered when he was gunned down by a couple of steps.

In the fifth, Hunter Dozier’s bare-handed pick and throw to first got Kevin Newman by two steps. Two batters later, Frazier hit his homer to make it 2-1 Pirates; little did we suspect that’s what it would remain, but Chris Archer (seven innings, six hits, one earned, eight strikeouts) was on one, as the youths say.

Except for one pitch.

We’ll leave you with this tonight as I spent far too much time on Fillmyer and far too little on anything else. In the third inning, Mondesi hit a baseball 421 feet, which is a distance that feels very much in the milieu of Giancarlo Stanton or Aaron Judge but not a 23-year old, 190-pound shortstop who, quite frankly, looked terrifyingly out of his depth during last season’s audition.

Yet BERTO was a row of seating and a very narrow concourse from hitting a baseball into the Allegheny River. He’s gonna be alright.

Your Tweet of Despair

The Bright Spot: Fine fielding and fine hitting from Dozier, who went 2-for-4. BERTO just because. I guess Fillmyer (for this game).

The Nadir: Gordon, Perez and O’Hearn aka Nos. 3-5 aka 0-for-11 with three strikeouts.

The Next Step: Jorge Lopez makes his seventh start of 2018 for the Royals to open the series against the Tigers in Comerica Park. Matthew Boyd makes his fifth start… against the Royals… this season, which should’ve probably yielded something better than 1-3 with a 4.32 ERA. 6:10 p.m. (CT) on FSKC, or 610 for those who prefer not to watch a bad-baseball crime.

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