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Miami Marlins vs. New York Mets: Examining Andrew Heaney's first start

Andrew Heaney threw six solid innings against the New York Mets last night. What did he do right for the Miami Marlins, and where could he use some improvement? Let's dive into the details.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins got their first look at the Major League version of Andrew Heaney, and he did not disappoint in last night's start versus the New York Mets. Miami got six solid innings out of Heaney, who only allowed one run against the Mets off of a David Wright home run. Heaney struck out three batters and walked one in his six innings of work.

Let's dive into the numbers and take a look at Heaney's performance. All data provided by MLB Gameday and Brooks Baseball.

The Pitches
Pitch Type Count Freq Velo (mph) pfx HMov (in.) pfx VMov (in.) H. Rel (ft.) V. Rel (ft.)
Sinker 59 65.56% 91.35 11.72 7.57 3.74 5.72
Change 14 15.56% 81.89 11.90 4.66 3.61 5.90
Curve 17 18.89% 79.70 -0.02 -2.22 3.69 5.84

We know from Heaney's previous scouting reports that Heaney likes to throw a low-90's fastball, wipeout slider, and improving changeup. The most notable difference between that and the report we are seeing here is that the "slider" has been reclassified as a curveball. We knew going in that the slider was something in between a curve and a slider, more of a slurvy offering, and the horizontal and vertical movement numbers display that same information. Sliders tend to be mostly "neutral" movement pitches with little horizontal or vertical break compared to what gravity would have done to those pitches; Heaney's offering shows little horizontal break but a decent amount of sink compared to the average slider.

Here is an example of what he threw last night.

Heaneycurve_medium

As a slider, you would expect that pitch to dive into Taylor Teagarden's back foot. But this pitch behaved a lot more like a curveball, as it dipped out of the zone and into the dirt for the swing and miss. Despite the descriptions of a wipeout slider, the early evidence shows Heaney throwing more of a curveball than a slider, which fits some of his early scouting reports.

Pitch Effectivness
Heaney, Pitches B/CS Swing% Whiff% GB%
Two-seamer 1.9 45.8 7.4 38.5
Curveball --- 47.1 50.0 0.0
Changeup 2.5 50.0 42.9 100.0

You can already see some trends in even just one start from Heaney's numbers. For one thing, his curveball now appears to look like a slider in terms of usage. Curves tend to be usable as both swing-and-miss material and called strike material, but Heaney only got whiffs on the pitch. The majority of those pitches were buried in the dirt, and when hitters were not offering at them, they took them for balls. Heaney would be wise to try and drop a few of them in for strikes, but the pitch does not have the same vertical drop as other pure curves. It will be interesting to see how the called strike numbers and whiff numbers develop going forward.

The changeup was supposed to be Heaney's worst pitch, but it looked very strong against the Mets early on. He threw it 14 times against them, exclusively against right-handed hitters. Those hitters swung and missed three times in seven swings, The pitch had decent movement that pretty closely mimicked the fastball, but the velocity difference played a major role in fooling hitters. It also had some more sink than the fastball, allowing Heaney to get a few more grounders on the ball, like in this pitch.

Heaneychange_medium

The fastball was perhaps the most disappointing pitch of the night. His balls to called strike ratio was not great, especially for a pitcher who was touted for "pitchability" and polish on the mound. It was not a great swing-and-miss pitch either, getting two whiffs (ironically both on his final pitches of strikeouts). It is classified as a sinker, but I did not see a spectacular amount of sink on the pitch, and it did not induce a great grounder rate early on.

There may be some concern about Heaney's lack of strikeouts, but he did get nine whiffs in 90 pitches. The rate of 10 percent swinging strikes is a very good one, and it should result in more strikeouts once Heaney drops a few more called strikes into the zone.

Evaluation

Heaney displayed good swing-and-miss stuff and should have gotten more strikeouts. He was ahead in counts relatively routinely, but he also struggled to get called strikes, which was surprising given his pedigree as a polished college pitcher. He could use some improvement on control to pound the strike zone more, as the Marlins would probably like. But the debut was promising, and Miami has itself at least an average starter right now in Heaney.