PHILADELPHIA — The Washington Nationals have had nothing but good things to say about right-hander Taylor Jordan since he joined their rotation June 29. They’re impressed with his poise on the mound, particularly when they have not played well behind him, impressed with his deceptive motion and impressed by his arsenal of pitches.
But if there is one aspect in which Jordan has struggled in his first three major league starts, it’s that hitters have a bit better success off him on his second and third time through a batting order.
Jordan has held opponents to a .130 batting average (3 for 23), .259 on-base percentage and .130 slugging percentage his first time through a lineup. The second go-around, however, those numbers jump to .308/.333/.346 with him allowing eight hits in 26 at-bats. The third time through, hitters are 8 for 15 (.533) with a 1.133 slugging percentage.
“I think when new pitchers come up, they have the advantage the first couple starts at least, because there’s not much video on him and nobody knows what they tend to do,” said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. “There’s a reason why it’s hard to stay around in this league. There’s so much information that if you can’t adapt or adjust to what the league does to you, it’s tough. But I think he’s got the stuff to do that. I don’t see why he can’t.”
Learning how to face hitters multiple times in the same game is all part of the maturation process many starting pitchers go through as they begin to establish themselves in the major leagues.
But there may be another reason why hitters have seemed to have better success off him the more they’ve seen him: pitch tipping.
“I’ve noticed that they’re picking up, I think, on whenever I hold the ball behind my back,” Jordan said after his start on Tuesday. “I think they’re starting to notice [my grip] so I need to change that or do something.”
There has been some discussion quietly that Jordan might be tipping his pitches on occasion and he seemed to hone in on a possible root of the problem after his start against the Phillies on Tuesday night.
Manager Davey Johnson said that while he hasn’t been alerted to any issues with pitch tipping in regard to Jordan, it’s an easy fix and it would be corrected quickly.
“If you get it behind your back and you twirl it around and get your grip to your slider or your changeup, yeah, that would be an issue because believe me they study it,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t take them long. There’s some guys, their first base coach [Juan Samuel], if he was doing it, I guarantee the hitters knew what was coming. They’re good at that.”
“[Fixing it] is real easy. All you do is grip your curveball there and let them tell their hitter curveball’s coming and then change it your fastball and throw it up and in. It’s all over. There was a lot of comment on a couple guys fanning their glove out on their breaking ball, [Stephen Strasburg] turning his glove on his breaking ball more than on his fastball. We watch it, too. We study our own pitchers.”
Jordan will start again Sunday against the Miami Marlins but his immediate future in the Nationals’ rotation after that is unclear as the team is hopeful Ross Detwiler will be ready to return after the All-Star break in the No. 5 spot.