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Griffin Jax, the two-headed monster


Brock Beauchamp
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Just to be clear, I never had any expectations for Griffin Jax but I have to admit at now I'm intrigued by him a little bit. Maybe it will turn out to be the same reason I was intrigued by Scott Diamond back in the day - cautious pessimism - but good performance is certainly more fun to watch than the other kind of performance and god knows we've witnessed enough of that lately.

Anyway, this is exactly the reason why this front office should not be wasting time with the likes of Beau Burrows and instead focusing on their plethora of prospects this season, many of which will require a 40-man decision this fall. I don't even really care who they run out there to see what they have, only that they get as many eyeballs on as many prospects as possible in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough for 2022.

Is Griffin Jax one of those diamonds? A month ago I would have laughed at the question, now I'm less sure he isn't.

Griffin Jax first five appearances:

2021 Pitching Game Log
Rk Gcar Gtm Date Tm   Opp Rslt Inngs Dec DR IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA BF Pit Str StL StS GB FB LD PU Unk GSc IR IS SB CS PO AB 2B 3B IBB GDP SF ROE aLI WPA acLI cWPA RE24 DFS(DK) DFS(FD) Entered Exited
1 1 60 Jun 8 MIN   NYY L,4-8 9-GF   99 1.0 3 3 3 0 1 2 0 27.00 6 23 17 2 2 1 4 1 0 0   0 0 0 0 0 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 .15 -0.065 .03 -0.01% -2.51 -3.55 -3.00 9t --- 0 out d2 9t end d 5
2 2 61 Jun 9 MIN   NYY L,6-9 5-8   0 3.1 3 1 1 0 2 0 0 8.31 13 51 35 11 4 1 10 4 3 0   1 0 0 0 0 12 2 0 0 0 1 0 .04 0.001 .01 0.00% 0.69 7.70 13.00 5t 1-- 2 out d7 8t 3 out d7
3 3 67 Jun 15 MIN @ SEA L,0-10 5-GF(8)   5 4.0 5 4 4 3 6 2 0 8.64 20 93 55 16 5 3 8 3 1 0   0 0 0 0 0 16 0 0 0 0 1 0 .03 -0.005 .00 0.00% -2.03 8.20 18.00 5b --- 0 out d6 8b end d10
4 4 75 Jun 25 MIN   CLE W,8-7 2-6 W(1-0) 9 4.1 3 3 3 2 2 1 0 7.82 18 75 49 12 4 7 7 1 2 0   0 0 0 0 0 16 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.28 -0.136 .18 -0.01% -0.88 8.75 22.00 2t --- 2 out d2 6t 3 out tie
5 5 81 Jul 3 MIN @ KCR L,3-6 GS-5 L(1-1) 7 5.0 8 6 6 3 3 1 0 8.66 25 88 58 14 9 6 13 4 1 0 27     2 0 0 21 2 0 0 0 1 0 .95 -0.374 .06 -0.01% -3.31 -1.35 6.00 1b start tie 5b 3 out d4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/11/2021.

Griffin Jax last four starts:

2021 Pitching Game Log
Rk Gcar Gtm Date Tm   Opp Rslt Inngs Dec DR IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA BF Pit Str StL StS GB FB LD PU Unk GSc IR IS SB CS PO AB 2B 3B IBB GDP SF ROE aLI WPA acLI cWPA RE24 DFS(DK) DFS(FD) Entered Exited
6 6 93 Jul 19(1) MIN @ CHW W,3-2 GS-4   15 4.0 1 1 1 1 6 1 0 7.48 15 68 43 6 16 3 5 0 2 0 61     1 0 0 14 0 0 0 0 0 1 .89 0.074 .03 0.00% 1.08 17.80 27.00 1b start tie 4b 3 out d1
7 7 104 Jul 30 MIN @ STL L,1-5 GS-5   10 5.0 2 1 1 2 2 0 0 6.41 19 83 52 19 4 5 10 3 2 0 59     2 0 0 16 0 0 0 0 1 0 .97 0.140 .01 0.00% 1.36 10.85 18.00 1b start tie 5b 3 out tie
8 8 109 Aug 5 MIN @ HOU W,5-3 GS-6 W(2-1) 5 5.1 3 1 1 1 0 1 0 5.63 20 75 49 11 3 8 11 2 1 0 57     0 0 0 19 1 0 0 0 0 0 .67 0.127 .00 0.00% 1.42 11.60 25.00 1b start tie 6b -2- 1 out a3
9 9 114 Aug 10 MIN   CHW W,4-3 GS-6 W(3-1) 4 6.0 5 3 3 1 10 2 0 5.45 24 83 57 15 14 5 8 2 0 0 59     0 0 0 23 1 0 0 1 0 0 .94 -0.023 .00 0.00% 0.03 27.90 51.00 1t start tie 6t 3 out d1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/11/2021.

The splits:
 

Date Tm G GS GF CG Rslt Dec DR IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA BF BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip Pit Str StL StS GB FB LD PU Unk GSc IR IS SB CS PO AB 2B 3B IBB GDP SF ROE aLI WPA acLI cWPA RE24 DFS(DK) DFS(FD)
Jun 8 to Jul 3, 2021 MIN 5 1 2 0 1-4 W-L:1-1 5.3 17.2 22 17 17 8 14 6 0 8.66 82 .310 .366 .620 .986 .296 330 65% 17% 7% 0.43   22% 12% 0 27 1 0% 2 0 0 71 4 0 0 0 3 0 .60 -0.579 .06 -0.04% -8.04 19.75 56.00
per 162 games 57 12 23 0     61 201 250 193 193 91 159 68 0   930           3740             136 0   12   23 0 0 805 46 0 0 0 34 0   -6.5   -0.4% -91.1 224 635

 

Date Tm G GS GF CG Rslt Dec DR IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA BF BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip Pit Str StL StS GB FB LD PU Unk GSc IR IS SB CS PO AB 2B 3B IBB GDP SF ROE aLI WPA acLI cWPA RE24 DFS(DK) DFS(FD)
Jul 19 to Aug 10, 2021 MIN 4 4 0 0 3-1 W-L:2-0 4.5 20.1 11 6 6 5 18 4 0 2.66 78 .153 .205 .347 .552 .137 309 65% 17% 12% 0.62   13% 9% 0 59   ---% 3 0 0 72 2 0 0 1 1 1 .87 0.318 .01 0.00% 3.88 68.15 121.00
per 162 games 34 34 0 0     39 173 94 52 52 43 154 34 0   664           2627             77 0       26 0 0 612 18 0 0 9 9 9   2.8   0.1% 33.0 580 1029
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Coming into the season, I thought Jax was a good third round pick that just wasn't going to get enough innings to adjust to the majors because of his military commitments and COVID. And maybe that's still true but he looked really good last night. I mentioned in another thread that he sorta reminded me a bit of Scott Baker, mostly in his delivery, but maybe in his results eventually. But I can also see why you think Scott Diamond instead.

I hope the Twins throw him back out there every fifth day for the remainder of the season and I'd like to see Rocco let him hit 100 pitches in a game.

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Hard to tell, I am also interested in his progression.  He may be another back of the rotation play, who could be better than that.  Houston and Chicago are 2 good hitting teams and Chicago has 2 looks.  Reminder for all Greg Maddox did not have overwhelming stuff, just the ability to put the ball where he wanted almost all the time.  Not saying Jax is in that league, but pitchers who can come close to that are very valuable.

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You look at his numbers in the Minors and you love the ERA and WHIP but when you look at the K rate you wonder how he is going to survive in MLB.  This year his numbers at AAA are closer to a K per inning but when he had no K's in that Houston game I was saying to myself he is fools gold.  Contact will eventually beat you and he gave up plenty in that game.  It felt more lucky than good to me.

Then he gets 10 K's in his next game with the White Sox and it makes me rethink everything I thought before.  If he has the potential to have a solid K rate and is hard to get hits off of that becomes a pretty lethal combination.  Can he continue down that path as teams gather more data on him hard to say but I will say he has me dreaming right now that he could be a number 3 starter or better if this is the new normal for him.

Of course he could come tumbling down as well but right now I just want to believe we have a solid pitcher for the future.

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This reinforces the point that getting in work at the MLB level matters.  Clearly, Jax is learning and using what he's learned and we're seeing that effort in the results.  He's shown the ability to get MLB hitters out.  He may well end up in the bullpen long term, but that still has value.  There's no reason to not keep him in the rotation at this point.  See if he can keep building on these good outings.

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32 minutes ago, gunnarthor said:

Coming into the season, I thought Jax was a good third round pick that just wasn't going to get enough innings to adjust to the majors because of his military commitments and COVID. And maybe that's still true but he looked really good last night. I mentioned in another thread that he sorta reminded me a bit of Scott Baker, mostly in his delivery, but maybe in his results eventually. But I can also see why you think Scott Diamond instead.

I hope the Twins throw him back out there every fifth day for the remainder of the season and I'd like to see Rocco let him hit 100 pitches in a game.

I'm far less confident in the Scott Diamond thing after seeing Jax strike out ten White Sox. Baker is a good ceiling, I think, as Baker was a wildly underrated pitcher who had a Berríos level ceiling but couldn't stay healthy.

Not that I think Jax will become Baker, only that Baker would be close to his 100% outcome.

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1 minute ago, wsnydes said:

This reinforces the point that getting in work at the MLB level matters.  Clearly, Jax is learning and using what he's learned and we're seeing that effort in the results.  He's shown the ability to get MLB hitters out.  He may well end up in the bullpen long term, but that still has value.  There's no reason to not keep him in the rotation at this point.  See if he can keep building on these good outings.

Yeah I had him pegged for the pen as well mainly because of the lack or K's but if he can continue to get them then he should be able to make it as starter too.  We will need more data as sample size is way too small and teams will look closer at what he is doing and try to adjust.  Will have to see if he can handle those adjustments or not before knowing whether he can make it or not.  Once teams adjusted to Duffey and Dobnak they ended up in the pen.

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I'm hopeful on Jax, but realistic enough to understand his .137 babip in his last 4 games is in no way sustainable.  The babip he featured in his first 5 games (.296) is probably closer to what he would really land at.  As such, the last 4 starts should be seen as likely a lucky hot streak, and the real criteria for success will be if he can limit walks, and keep the hits to singles, instead of doubles.

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Just now, Cap'n Piranha said:

I'm hopeful on Jax, but realistic enough to understand his .137 babip in his last 4 games is in no way sustainable.  The babip he featured in his first 5 games (.296) is probably closer to what he would really land at.  As such, the last 4 starts should be seen as likely a lucky hot streak, and the real criteria for success will be if he can limit walks, and keep the hits to singles, instead of doubles.

Exactly, we're in SSSS territory here and should treat it as such. But either way, this is an interesting development to keep an eye on late in a season where there is little to care about on-field.

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16 minutes ago, Dman said:

You look at his numbers in the Minors and you love the ERA and WHIP but when you look at the K rate you wonder how he is going to survive in MLB.  This year his numbers at AAA are closer to a K per inning but when he had no K's in that Houston game I was saying to myself he is fools gold.  Contact will eventually beat you and he gave up plenty in that game.  It felt more lucky than good to me.

Then he gets 10 K's in his next game with the White Sox and it makes me rethink everything I thought before.  If he has the potential to have a solid K rate and is hard to get hits off of that becomes a pretty lethal combination.  Can he continue down that path as teams gather more data on him hard to say but I will say he has me dreaming right now that he could be a number 3 starter or better if this is the new normal for him.

Of course he could come tumbling down as well but right now I just want to believe we have a solid pitcher for the future.

Houston strikes out less than any other team in the majors--I could see where they altered the approach of the pitchers in that series to not attempt to get strikeouts, but rather let the team who wants to put the ball in play, put it in play, hopefully with weak contact.  As it turns out, Jax only induced 5.3% weak contact against Houston, his lowest rate this season (until last night, when he induced no soft contact).  Yet another reason why I'm not jumping on the Jax Jalopy just yet.

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26 minutes ago, nicksaviking said:

I'm probably a bet less optimistic. His MiLB strikeout numbers were always very, very poor. Heck, he couldn't even strike out college batters. 

Somehow they are trending upward now? If that ability plateaus I'm ready to move on. If he can continue the upward trend I'll give him more leash.

Yes, as we all know, the only metric that defines success with pitchers is strikeouts.  It's not like Merrill Kelly, Wade Miley, Cole Irvin, Marcus Stroman, Hyun-Jin Ryu, or Kyle Gibson are all top 30 in WAR and have lower k/9 than Jax.

Oh wait, it's exactly like that.

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8 minutes ago, Mike Sixel said:

I really think he's got a chance to be a bullpen arm long term. I am less confident he's a starter, but hey, weirder things have happened. To Brock's other point..... Bring up more young bullpen arms! 

That babip is not sustainable, no way. 

I think this is the most likely path.  I'm not opposed to giving Jax some more run as a starter to see if he can keep building off the progress he's made, but if Jax is on the Twins 2023 roster, the odds are it's as a 6th/7th inning reliever, with potentially reverse splits (so far, he's been more effective against lefties than righties, but that's very SSS, and could normalize quite quickly).

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3 minutes ago, Cap'n Piranha said:

I think this is the most likely path.  I'm not opposed to giving Jax some more run as a starter to see if he can keep building off the progress he's made, but if Jax is on the Twins 2023 roster, the odds are it's as a 6th/7th inning reliever, with potentially reverse splits (so far, he's been more effective against lefties than righties, but that's very SSS, and could normalize quite quickly).

Even if he ends up in the bullpen, there's likely value in giving him 30 IP as a starter in 2021 over 8 IP as a reliever. Given how few innings these guys have been able to pitch in recent years, just logging innings on their arms likely has a fair amount of value for future performance. The guy, like so many, needs to learn how to get MLB hitters out and it seems like the more hitters he faces now, the better he'll become at doing so.

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15 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

Even if he ends up in the bullpen, there's likely value in giving him 30 IP as a starter in 2021 over 8 IP as a reliever. Given how few innings these guys have been able to pitch in recent years, just logging innings on their arms likely has a fair amount of value for future performance. The guy, like so many, needs to learn how to get MLB hitters out and it seems like the more hitters he faces now, the better he'll become at doing so.

Agreed. Plus, Ryan is about the only guy I expect up as a starter the rest of the way.

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23 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

Even if he ends up in the bullpen, there's likely value in giving him 30 IP as a starter in 2021 over 8 IP as a reliever. Given how few innings these guys have been able to pitch in recent years, just logging innings on their arms likely has a fair amount of value for future performance. The guy, like so many, needs to learn how to get MLB hitters out and it seems like the more hitters he faces now, the better he'll become at doing so.

Right, which is why I said I'm not opposed to giving him more run as a starter.

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There's very little in regard to quality major league starting pitchers who have the kind of K rate Jax has who pan out. Jax is a 3 pitch pitcher and none of his pitches are really outstanding so this is just a flash in the pan, albeit a really great flash in the pan for Jax and some memories he can always hang on to, but there's just nothing to suggesthe can keep it up. 

I suspect Jax is a lot more Scott Diamond than he is Kyle Hendricks. Don't forgot Diamond struck out 8 at least once in his career.

Over his last 4 sparkling starts, Jax has a 12.7% barrel rate and 38.2% hard hit rate with a 50.9% fly ball rate and a 19* launch angle, but despite being hit hard, his BABIP is only .137. 

If we look at his averages against the White Sox last night 95mph exit velocity (yes, that's right, his average exit velocity was 95), 17* launch angle you get .447 BABIP with roughly half the hits being 2Bs and a few triples mixed in. 

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Jax made some important adjustments when he was sent back down to St. Paul.

When he returned, he added 2 inches of induced vertical break (more carry) and an improved slider.

Fastball | First 5 outings:

15.6 IVB, 1:32 spin direction at release, .293 BAA

Fastball | Last 4 outings:

17.3 IVB, 1:21 spin direction, .194 BAA (albeit those were some HAMMERED home runs off of Sox bats)

This is notable because the added carry gives his fastball ride (a combination of carry and run). If you look at the top induced vertical break pitchers, you'll find that most have a spin direction close to 12:00. That's essentially the pure backspin fastball. At 1:20, Jax's fastball now not only has above average carry (16.1 MLB avg), but it has run that darts into a right-handed hitter. 

His slider's performance is much better:

Slider | First 5 outings:

.429 BAA, 12% swing strike rate

Slider | Last 4 outings:

.040 BAA, 22% swing strike rate

He adjusted his release point for his slider, letting it go a few inches higher than before and it appears to have added a few inches of vertical drop. 

I don't know what these means for him going forward. The fastball is intriguing. It's not a unicorn but it's a bit of an outlier and outliers can flummox hitters. The slider is showing signs of being a tough pill. 

Stay tuned.

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it's interesting that even as he's making adjustments in how he's throwing his fastball and slider (love the detail, parker!) he's still throwing just as many strikes. So he's been able to refine his offerings without losing command.

I agree the hard-hit rates and BABIP is likely unsustainable. I'm worried that he's still too homer-happy to have long-term success...but let's see how it goes for him. maybe this is a hot streak, but he also may be finding out some things that will lead to longer term success. No reason not to keep starting him, that's for sure!

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4 hours ago, Unwinder said:

Jax strikes me as extremely intelligent, methodical, and driven. I don't know if he can stick as a starter, but I expect him to make all the right choices to maximize his chances.

Isn't that what we should expect as a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy?  You must be chosen to go there as the application/acceptance process is more than difficult, including either a recommendation from a Congressman/Senator or in unusual cases a Presidential appointment.  And when you leave you have had a tremendous education coupled with training to be an officer in the Air Force.  That background gives him all the attributes you speak of.

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3 hours ago, bean5302 said:

There's very little in regard to quality major league starting pitchers who have the kind of K rate Jax has who pan out. Jax is a 3 pitch pitcher and none of his pitches are really outstanding so this is just a flash in the pan, albeit a really great flash in the pan for Jax and some memories he can always hang on to, but there's just nothing to suggesthe can keep it up. 

I suspect Jax is a lot more Scott Diamond than he is Kyle Hendricks. Don't forgot Diamond struck out 8 at least once in his career.

Over his last 4 sparkling starts, Jax has a 12.7% barrel rate and 38.2% hard hit rate with a 50.9% fly ball rate and a 19* launch angle, but despite being hit hard, his BABIP is only .137. 

If we look at his averages against the White Sox last night 95mph exit velocity (yes, that's right, his average exit velocity was 95), 17* launch angle you get .447 BABIP with roughly half the hits being 2Bs and a few triples mixed in. 

And that analysis fits with what he did at AAA as well.  When the BABIP luck went his way he looked efficient and got good outcomes when it didn't he got hit hard with bad outcomes.  We'll see if the new pitches change things but that hard hit rate is downright scary for a MLB pitcher.  I desperately want to believe he can sustain this and as the sample size gets larger it will be easier to see what he really is.  For now he is nice story in a season full of disillusion. 

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I’m on the Jax Jalopy! It’s great to see him succeed as a narrative, just like Dobnak. He probably will never be a mid-rotation type, but there’s a ton of value in having your 4,5,6 starters having options and cheap, instead of old and expensive. Something to watch in a lost season, and just maybe… a reason for Thad to not go sign another Shoemaker. One can hope anyways

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9 minutes ago, roger said:

Isn't that what we should expect as a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy?  You must be chosen to go there as the application/acceptance process is more than difficult, including either a recommendation from a Congressman/Senator or in unusual cases a Presidential appointment.  And when you leave you have had a tremendous education coupled with training to be an officer in the Air Force.  That background gives him all the attributes you speak of.

Yeah, that accomplishment is one of the main things that gave me that impression, ha.

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