Second Thoughts: T.J. House and the art of pitching
A breakdown of a well-executed start by the rookie southpaw
In this era of pitchers blowing fastballs by hitters with triple-digit velocity, it's refreshing to see a hurler not blessed with a power arm find success through the actual art of pitching and that is exactly what T.J. House did against the White Sox on Wednesday night.
Don't get me wrong, a little extra zip on the fastball is a nice bonus, but as we've seen with Ubaldo Jimenez and more recently with Danny Salazar, a high speed fastball without a general sense of how to locate and mix pitches won't get you by in this game forever. Big U lost his velocity and had to learn how to be a pitcher. Danny still has his velocity, but not good enough command for consistent success.
Enter T.J. House, a 24-year-old Louisiana native drafted by the Tribe in 2008 in the 16th round. After spending six seasons in the farm system and compiling a 3.90 minor league ERA, including a 2.40 mark in seven starts in AAA to start the year, the left-hander got his second call to the major league squad, but the first where he would actually pitch.
House made one relief appearance pitching a shutout inning against Oakland before being sent back down to Columbus, although his stay in AAA would be brief as Zach McAllister was placed on the 15-day DL soon after.
His first start was a bit rough against the Orioles, but he was also put into a tough situation where he needed to give the team length to give the relievers some much-needed rest. Considering that, he wasn't terrible allowing five runs on 11 hits in six innings of work.
So five days later, his turn comes up once again in the rotation in Chicago against the White Sox. The Tribe, trying to avoid a three-game sweep, turns to the left-hander to give them a chance at a victory and he did everything in his power to try and make that happen. But one Jason Giambi solo home run was all the support his offense could scrape together for him.
It's hard to precisely describe the "it" factor that gives a pitcher the type of dominance that can make him nearly unhittable during a game, but House definitely had "it" working on Wednesday night.
I can list all the things House did right to keep the White Sox hitters off balance.
First off, and most importantly, he threw quality strikes and stayed ahead in the count as much as he could.
Next, he kept the ball moving, as in he had it going from one side of the plate to the other and also changed the batter's eye level.
He also worked to keep the ball on the ground and in the infield. His ground-ball to fly-ball ratio was 10:5 and I think only two or three of those fly balls actually made it to the outfield.
And last, but not least, he worked quickly and conserved his pitch count. After he was pulled at six and a third innings, he had only thrown 87 pitches.
Probably the most impressive pitch in House's arsenal is his big, sweeping changeup. It tops out in the low 80s, but it can start in the left batter's box and end up in the right one. Even as a lefty, he showed the ability to get both left and right-handed hitters to swing and miss with the same pitch. It starts in on lefties, but then tails away so they miss it and with right-handed hitters, it bears down on them on the last second so that they swing overtop of it almost in self defense.
In a way, it reminds me of a mirror image of Justin Masterson's slider when he has it working since it can reap similar results against hitters from both sides of the plate.
I think Yan Gomes also deserves a good deal of credit for how well House pitched on Wednesday since the two of them appeared to be in near-perfect sync the whole night. They worked quickly and were on the same page with the pitch sequencing from the start.
Obviously, you can only take so much away from one start, but again, House pitched, at least to me, the most impressive game by an Indians starter not named Corey Kluber up to this point in the season.
It's also nice to have a southpaw in the rotation once again since the departure of Scott Kazmir, who I still wish the Tribe had re-signed during the offseason. That has been a luxury the Indians have not enjoyed all that often recently, at least not anyone who was a long-term solution. Other than Kazmir, the few lefties to make starts for Cleveland include the likes of Aaron Laffey, David Huff and Chris Seddon.
Does House have staying power in the rotation? If he continues to pitch like he did on Wednesday, absolutely. Our esteemed leader here at IBI, Tony Lastoria, has spoken highly of the left-hander for a while now and predicted that he could be a dark-horse rotation option for the Tribe this season.
Of course, the fact that House is the third pitcher from Columbus to be called up and inserted into the rotation with it only being May isn't exactly a compliment to the starting staff so far this season, but maybe now they can find some stability and consistency.
Better late than never, I guess.
Up next: Rockies (28-25) vs. Indians (24-30) @ Progressive Field. First pitch at 7:05 pm ET.
As the Indians get a much-needed off-day after 16 straight days of games, they return home to take on one of the top offenses in the National League in the Colorado Rockies. Juan Nicasio has been solid for them this season and he is coming off a six-inning shutout gem against the Braves. Despite their offensive firepower, however, they've lost six of their last 10 games.
For the Tribe, there's almost no argument as of right now that Corey Kluber is the ace of their staff. He will once again be put in the position of stopping his team's current losing streak after dominating the Orioles over seven shutout innings in his last start. With his nine strikeouts during that outing, he now is tied for third in the major leagues with 83 whiffs.
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.