Joey Lucchesi: Worth the Investment?
I’m afraid the Joey Lucchesi hype machine will be quite operational by the time this fresh take hits the press. However, I was able to watch his first start (against my beloved Brewers) in real time, and took the time to watch back his last two starts. I’d like to share what I saw in the last two outings against Colorado where I took some notes on Baby K(ershaw).
Unlike Kershaw, who operates with more than two pitches (two of which being a fastball at ~93mph and a more loopy curveball down at 73mph), Lucchesi strictly uses a two-pitch mix: a two-seam at ~90mph and a tight curve at ~80mph. However, Brooks Baseball wants to attribute a change-up to his repertoire, and Fangraphs confuses all his curveballs with change-ups. I think the former has something to do with the floating action when he doesn’t throw the curveball well and the latter I think has to do with whichever pitch classification Fangraphs uses being sub-optimal.
My game notes are more robust for the most recent start against Colorado last night, but I’m including what I saw in his second start on April 5th as well.
April 5 v COL – 5IP, 1H, 0ER, 3BB, 7K
1st Inning: So-so fastball command sitting 90-91. The pickoff throw he got Blackmon on was a balk in my opinion.
2nd Inning: Still no fastball command. Amped it up to 92 to get Story on a 3-2. No feel for the curveball at all. Got a lucky swing on a floating curve up on Blackmon before getting him to swing at a good curveball. That good curve might have been the first good one of the game and he ended the inning with a strikeout. Command is awful to this point.
3rd Inning: Command was a little better on the fastball and threw a couple good curves this inning. Quick inning resulted. Fastball dipped to 89 a couple times.
4th Inning: Fastball command was better early in the inning but he was only pitching at 88-90 mph. Threw a couple of nice curveballs and a killer change-up to get a K. Seemed like he amped up the fastball for both at-bats against Story to try and throw it by him (which worked).
5th Inning: Quick inning with 2 Ks. Decent command this inning to get ahead, and he leaned on the curve and changeup to put away two batters himself. The first K was a curveball and I think the second was a change-up, but sometimes it’s hard to tell. A bad curveball for him can look like his change-up.
April 10 @ COL – 6IP 4H 1HR 2ER 1BB 8K
1st Inning: Good fastball command and placement early, and he’s sitting more at 89-90 than 90-91 from his last start at home. All the curveballs he threw looked tight and got chased. Unforced error on a comebacker to the mound. Accidentally left a fastball up to Story (called for it down and away) that he extended on and went oppo. He got away with that pitch against Iannetta twice. He left the same fastball up to Desmond who also got a hold of it, but his hit had a little less on it and was a fly out deep to right field (Story’s HR only cleared by 6″).
By way of example, here’s a first-pitch fastball to Arenado where Lucchesi is looking to go down-and-away and ends up up-and-in for a strike. If Arenado isn’t taking on the first pitch here, that’s one he’ll usually hit pretty hard and far.
Followed by that tight curve with the swing and miss!
And the homer to Story, which he did hit hard and far enough to homer:
Lucchesi 2nd: Left a lot of fastballs middle-middle and got away with it. Bounced the only curveballs he threw when he was trying to throw them for strikes. On the last batter on 0-2 he threw another really tight breaking curve. I wonder if it’s by design because it’s Coors. I remember it being loopier at home the last outing.
Lucchesi 3rd: Spent a lot of pitches overthrowing to Tyler Anderson with the fastball, but eventually threw a fastball down the middle at 89 to get the K. Threw a bad curveball to DJLM and got him to line out to right centerfield on the same kind of fastball up and away. He’s not trying to work up, he’s just missing up in the zone a lot with the fastball. Started the Iannetta at-bat with the same fastball and missed up and away, then a nice tight curve on the black for a strike. Good sequencing to finish him with the curveball that dropped into the dirt.
Let’s see that trademark dirtball curve to Ianetta:
4th Inning: Worked around Arenado, never coming into the zone until it was 2-2, forcing swings off the plate at the fastball and curveball. Arenado eventually saw that fastball on the black outside enough times to hammer it up the middle for a single. Got Desmond to fly out on a good fastball down. Got a swing and miss from Desmond on a good curveball again as well. Got him to ground out on a fastball middle-middle. Got away with another one.
5th Inning: Though it feels like smoke and mirrors he seems to be ahead 1-2 at 2-2 on a lot of batters. Weakly hit bloop single followed by a double play ball. Got ahead on something called Tauchman 0-2, followed by a trademarked bounced curve and then a tight curve with a swing and miss.
Let’s see those two curveballs back-to-back:
6th Inning: Ryan McMahon sighting! Worked back to 2-2 with McMahon missing two pitches down the middle (foul). Then Lucchesi got him with the trademark bounced curve ball, high fastball (foul), and finished him with a high fastball at 90mph. This is where I remember that the Rockies roster is really lefty-heavy and they were pinch-hitting a lefty against a lefty, though we’ve noted McMahon isn’t bad against lefties. Bad floating curveball missed badly to DJLM but then got him to tap out with a middle-middle fastball that he didn’t square up. Seems to be able to paint the black against Ianetta. Sequence of: Fastball away (looking), so-so curve away (swing and miss), wasted a fastball up, then finished him with a fastball inside on the black (looking). So he went away from that fastball up, curveball down sequence this inning. Nice change of pace.
7th Inning: Worked Arenado away with that fastball again, but Arenado had seen it too many times and almost takes it oppo (a la Story in the first). You can’t leave that belt high to Arenado because he just lays the bat head on it and drives it the other way; it went for a triple Good curveball away to Story, swing and a miss, he probably guessed fastball. Bad curveball that floated up and away. Threw him another curveball that got the swing and miss the first time, but Story didn’t bite this time. Stayed completely out of the zone to Story with two fastballs away, conceding the walk once he was down 3-1. This was the first time he wasn’t in control of an at-bat all game. That ends his day.
I’ll let you enjoy seeing what Arenado does to guys with average fastball velocity the third time through the lineup, even on the outside part of the plate:
The Final Verdict
This first time through the league I’d be comfortable starting Lucchesi weekly in leagues 12 teams or deeper. You can plan on getting those 6-8Ks per start even if he’s only going 5-6 innings. In dynasty formats, you could make an even-priced deal if you need starting pitcher and/or specifically strikeout help while you wait to see how the league adjusts to his 2-pitch heavy mix. These types of players usually don’t cost as much as similar players putting up the same numbers because no one is quite sure if he’s for real. If the deception sticks, he could make a nice, cheap acquisition. If you need to run some trade ideas for Lucchesi past someone, stop by our Facebook group.