Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jameson Taillon left Sunday's game in the 6th inning after going 5.1 innings and throwing 81 pitches. The veteran righty was charged with four earned runs, raising his season ERA to 6.71. While it was not the most horrific line in the world, 5.1 IP, 4 ER, 8 hits, 2 BB, 1 K, it was still not where we hoped he would be pitching.
While not the sole reason the Cubs lost the series finale to the Orioles, it was still another frustrating day for Taillon. There was a lot of traffic on the basepaths and like most of his other starts this year, he had to work hard to grind his way through and "survive". It just has not been clean.
In 12 starts, Taillon has only recorded one outing in which he has gone a full six innings. That was his start against the Pirates last Tuesday. Over his last four starts, he's pitched to a 4.89 ERA. Very mediocre is the best way to describe it. While Taillon was never expected to be an ace-level pitcher, our hope was for him to pitch around his career numbers of 3.80 ERA/1.2 WHIP/3.80 FIP (based on numbers prior to 2023). The Cubs gave him a four-year deal, and they certainly hope for the same.
What is noticeable is how Taillon is able to get ahead of hitters in the count and struggle to put them away. Over his career he has had good command, entering this year with a 2.2 BB/9. This year he sports a 3.2 BB/9 and a H/9 (hits-per-nine innings) over 10. The strikeout rate is around where it normally is, but more walks leading to more traffic and more traffic leading to more hits pitching in bad situations has really hurt him so far. Even when he does not walk somebody, grinding in deep counts can lead to pitching over the plate and getting hit hard.
Taillon has shown small glimpses of what he can be for the Cubs from time to time. His stuff alone is not bad, and there is a reason he has been a decent MLB pitcher over his career. The execution has just not been there, we need to see more effective outings. Even in the outings in which he only gives up 2-3 in five innings, it then requires the bullpen to work at least four innings.
Could it be a tweak the Cubs coaching staff can make? Is it confidence? Is it physical? He was on the IL some time back and the lack of rehab work was something many questioned. One could wonder if the Cubs themselves tried to tweak something that isn't working because some observers seem to think something is different. Whatever it is, the hope is that Taillon can gather it together and be a solid 3-4 type guy. He has been better than this in his career.