On a Monday night in a season anything but ordinary except for a Royals rebuild, Josh Staumont electrified an empty Wrigley Field.
Three batters, three strikeouts, three dreams crushed beyond recognition. It was an overpowering delight. Recaps were made for such dominance.
The Victim: Javier Báez
Fastball - 98.9 mph
Báez spits on the first pitch he sees from Staumont, and with good reason. If he manages to make contact, he’d likely be so late that it would spray into the first base dugout, so why even bother? He was probably taking all the way. Smart Last year, Staumont threw a first pitch strike barely over half the time.
Perez set the target low in the zone and Staumont missed up and away.
Curve - 82.4 mph
After taking measure of 99 mph heat, Báez is ready for the fastball. His gauntlet has been thrown down and challenge is accepted! And Staumont serves him a hammer curve with just a brutal 12-6 drop. Unfair! Báez swings early and over. He had absolutely no chance.
Fastball - 99.3 mph
After working in the lower half on the first two pitches, it makes sense for Staumont to change the eye level and elevate. Waste a pitch up in the zone. It doesn’t have to be out of the zone necessarily, because again, even if Báez swings, he’s not going to touch it if it’s in the upper third. Staumont just misses. Báez earns a reprieve.
Fastball - 98.5 mph
Another fastball and another location to challenge Baez. This one is too far down. How difficult is it to frame a pitcher throwing 98 mph low, especially when it’s below your intended target? Perez isn’t a great framer to start, but there’s just no way.
Fastball - 99.1 mph
Well, maybe it’s not that hard. Perez does a nice job of pulling the ball up and Staumont paints the lower edge of the zone. He was on the edge this entire at bat, very much on top of the target from his catcher. It was just a clinic of heat. Báez saw five pitches and only swung at the curve.
The Victim: Willson Contreras
Fastball - 98.3 mph
This is almost a carbon-copy start of the Báez at bat. Perez sets up down in the zone. Staumont misses up and away. Contreras takes the heat for strike one. He’s already doomed.
Curve - 82.9 mph
Again, carbon-copy. Fastball followed by a curve down and out of the zone. And an early swing over the pitch. Did Contreras see nothing in the Báez at bat? Contreras strikes out a fair bit—about a quarter of his plate appearances—so he’s a candidate to go fishing. The hook is baited...
Curve - 82.9 mph
Here’s where Staumont flips the script. Contreras flailed at the first curve he saw, why not offer another? This is one where Staumont reaches back for a little extra spin. According to Statcast, this curve has a spin rate of 3,126 rpm. His average curve this year has a spin rate of 2,991 rpm. It’s really difficult to compare different curves, and it may be an optical illusion because this one hit the dirt, but it sure felt like it had just a little more break. Like it mattered. Contreras was toast the instant it left Staumont’s fingertips.
The Victim: Kyle Schwarber
Fastball - 98.6 mph
The first left-handed batter we see and Staumont let’s one fly up and away. Ball one.
Fastball - 98.7 mph
Staumont probably got away with this one, a heater that hit middle-middle. Surprised Schwarber wasn’t hunting there after taking the first pitch for a ball. Oh, well... something, something missed opportunities.
Fastball - 98.9 mph
Perez has set up in virtually the same spot on all three fastballs to Schwarber, low and away. Staumont has yet to hit his spot, but shoves ahead in the count after Schwarber fouls off an inside heater. It’s a tempting pitch to be sure, especially coming after the prime slice of heat he saw the previous pitch.
Notice how Staumont is pushing the pedal down just a little bit more on each of these heaters to Schwarber? Foreshadowing alert!
Fastball - 101.1 mph
Yeeeeeeeeeeahhhhhhh... This is the gas right here.
That’s the fastest pitch Staumont has thrown this year and the third where he’s topped 101 mph. He and Jacob deGrom are the only pitchers to do that. deGrom has done it twice.
Here’s a fun table.
2020, Pitches 100+ mph
Curve - 84 mph
Let’s play a game. You’re a major league hitter. You’ve just seen a pitcher blow a fastball at 101 mph through the opposite batter’s box. You’ve also seen two of your teammates break their knees swinging at a curve that falls off a cliff. The previous four pitches have each been clocked faster than the last. You have two strikes against you.
a) Gear up for another fastball?
b) Get ready to adjust for a curve?
c) Think about how you’re going to walk back to the dugout?
There have been a couple of fun pitching performances from the Royals in 2020. But nothing this hot and filthy. If Staumont can keep this up, he will immediately be must-see viewing out of the bullpen.