The Red Sox got a brief look at Tampa Bay Rays’ rookie pitcher Austin Pruitt in two games in April, when he pitched 3 1/3 innings in relief and gave up five runs on eleven hits. The 27-year-old Pruitt has pitched a total of 20 major-league games in his career, all this season – three as a starter, the remainder in relief. He has put up fairly mediocre numbers: a 5.65 ERA (74 ERA+) and 1.558 WHIP and has strong platoon splits (right-handed batters have OPSed .887 against him, compared to the .771 OPS left-handed batters have put up). As a starter (in a very small sample size – 14.1 innings pitched) he has been considerably better, with a 3.14 ERA (0.977 WHIP) vs. his 6.91 ERA (1.849 WHIP) as a reliever. His platoon splits have also been better as a starter, with RHB putting up a .741 OPS to lefties’ .644; as a reliever, the OPSes were .932 vs .770 respectively.
What he throws. Pruitt throws a moderate-velocity four-seam fastball (“FF”), a two-seam fastball (“FT”), a slider (“SL”), a changeup (“CH”), and a curve (“CU”). His two-seam fastball is very distinct from his four-seam version, showing much more horizontal movement (averaging 7.7 inches of horizontal break, compared to his four-seam’s 1.8 inches), although it has very similar velocity (91.6 mph vs 91.9 mph for four-seam). Neither his curve nor his slider have unusual movement.
Pitch usage and trends. Pruitt uses his pitches very differently in different situations. Right-handed batters see almost no two-seam fastballs or changeups (2.6% and 3.5% respectively), while left-handed batters see plenty of both (21.7% two-seamers and 21.4% changeups). Instead, righties see far more sliders (44.1% vs. 10.7% to left-handed batters). When ahead in the count, Pruitt is much more likely to use his slider and curve, preferring his two-seam fastball when behind in the count.
Over the course of the season, Pruitt has been relatively consistent in his pitch use, without drastically changing his repertoire whether he is starting or relieving. (His three starts are boxed in the charts below.) His changeup has shown the most variability between appearances, disappearing almost completely in some games but then reappearing again. Nor has his velocity shown significant changes when starting or relieving.
Pitch value. Pruitt’s strong platoon splits are obvious when looking at the total bases yielded per 100 pitches; his two-seam fastball, slider, and curve are all much worse against right-handed batters than lefties. His best pitch is his changeup, which is much better than average to both right- and left-handed batters. On the other hand, he has done a better than average job of throwing strikes, with only his four-seam fastball being slightly worse than average for balls per 100 pitches.
Pitch location. Pruitt does a good job of targeting the edges of the strike zone with most of his pitches. His changeup, in particular, tends to fall right on the bottom or outside edge of the zone. His curve, while close to the edges of the zone, tends to be just inside the strike zone.