One game into the spring schedule and people are already bashing Jack Flaherty. While Flaherty wasn’t sharp, it doesn’t mean he isn’t our ace and that we should be worried. In fact, there is nothing to read from this at all.
The first few weeks of games during spring training have multiple functions: work up to the regular season, experiment with new things, and get the feel back. Flaherty only threw 17 of his 39 pitches for strikes, so it’s obvious he doesn’t have his feel yet. Also factor in that throwing 40 pitches in the first start is not common; most pitchers start around 30 pitches. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but factor in warm up pitches, throws to first, etc, and that number jumps quite a bit.
People will be quick to point out that Flaherty didn’t pitch as well during the 2020 season, but there are reason for that. First off, he’s not a quick starter. In his exceptional 2019 season, he was 4-6 with a 4.94 ERA in the first half of the season before going 7-2 with a 0.91 ERA in the second. When you look at 2020, he only pitched about half a season; those first half numbers match his in 2020 (4-3, 4.91). Secondly, he had a span of over 3 weeks where he didn’t pitch due to his teams Covid Quarantine; his first game of the season was July 24 and his second was August 19. He had that break to keep him on a normal schedule, but I think it cooled him off. If you also look at each individual start, you’ll see his ERA was inflated due to his September 15th start, where he gave up 9 runs; every other start was 3 or fewer that season.
If you look at his post-season start in 2020, you’ll see that was when I think he was starting to warm up. Against a very good Padres team, he only gave up a run in 6 innings, limiting them to 6 hits and 2 walks; he also struck out 8.
Basically, nothing at this point of the season means anything. Guys are just getting going at this point. You don’t see anyone complaining that Nolan Arenado went 0-2 with a strikeout; people could complain that we got a busted guy. But they won’t because its his first game with the team, and he’s not as outspoken as Flaherty is. I’m willing to bet anyone complaining about Flaherty’s start are the same people that complain about him taking a stand with Black Lives Matter or his social media posting. He has a platform and he’s using it; Michael Jordan got killed in the ’90s for not doing similar stuff.
If Flaherty is struggling come May, then there is reason for concern and criticism. Until then, just enjoy baseball.