tommy burns

In my last two posts, I looked at how pitchers’ threw when it came to location in the strike zone, and where they had success, especially when it came to velocity.

I watched Howard College pitcher Tommy Burns, who was drafted in the 34th round by the Brewers out of high school in 2012, but didn’t sign (but since he went to Junior College, he is still draft eligible). Listed at 6-1, he is short for a right-handed pitcher, and doesn’t offer much projection, and is not very athletic off the mound. He has a high leg kick with a toe that points towards the ground. He gets rid of this with runners on. Here is some video of his delivery:

 So let’s break down his outing. I put all of his pitches in a spreadsheet that you can view here:

There are some human errors here, especially since I was trying to write reports on both teams at the same time, but I think it is useful data nevertheless. First the results, then the pitches:

33 Balls

6 Fly-balls, 4 for outs, two for no outs. (Note: I did not differentiate between line drive and fly-ball, as

the difference is often subtle or ill-defined and subject to the “catch/no-catch bias”)

14 foul-balls (one for an out)

10 Ground-balls, 5 for outs, 5 for no outs.

13 called strikes

7 swinging strikes


22 Changeups, averaged 77.24 MPH

10 curveballs, averaged 73.17 MPH

28 fastballs, averaged 86.75 MPH

14 sliders, averaged 81 MPH

 Burns’ “Heat Map” (inspired by Newman’s, but certainly not as pretty)

















Certainly there is some swing/no swing bias in this heat map, but it is a start. First some general observations, followed by a short scouting report with both my observations and the observations of a couple of scouts at the game. Burns clearly worked in the middle section horizontally, and about even vertically. He went both up and down, and favored the glove side (that is, inside to lefties, away from righties) slightly.

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Some of his fastballs could have been called sinkers, as they seemed to have movement down in the zone, but just for ease I called them all fastballs. His curve actually tilts like a hard curve, despite the slow curve velocity. There are surely classification errors when it comes to the change and slider, as one scout noted, they often looked pretty similar. This was because the slider was a little bit harder, but it didn’t really have great tilt. The fastball was often pretty flat, and one scout noted that while he was 88-91 MPH early, his fastball was getting the **** hit out of it.” He called him a “bad version of Shaun Marcum”, which I found very strange. Shawn Marcum sits at around that velocity, but his fastball has a lot of movement and he has exceptional command (I am guessing that is why he was called a bad version of Marcum). It seemed easier to just say that he is a right-hander with a bad fastball and iffy command.

Burns clearly lost his velocity as the outing went along, and his command really dropped off as well. Since he has a relief profile, that isn’t a huge deal, especially since he is 19. The changeup really started floating on him, which hurt him as he started to work backwards more often as the game went along.

Here is another video of him pitching, this time to a hitter:

It seems, if the outing I saw is any indication, he is more a ground-ball pitcher than a strikeout pitcher. While, for reasons I listed above, I believe he has a relief profile, it is interesting that he seemed to throw 4 pitches, all rather frequently. Obviously his 86.75 MPH fastball is well below average, closest to Bronson Arroyo out of right-handed qualified starters, but he did touch 92. Even though he is not a projection” pitcher, one can imagine him gaining more strength and consistency and throwing in the 90-92 MPH range almost exclusively (and that is assuming he doesn’t add velocity, which could very well happen, even without the height), especially out of the bullpen.

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At age 19 pitching in early February, control problems are expected (just one more non put in play strike than balls), and he didn’t seem to be exceptionally wild, he had some idea what he was doing. If he does move to the bullpen, it would seem he would drop one pitch, but it isn’t real clear whether or not this would be the change or the slider. If we assume his future fastball velocity will be ~91 MPH on average, that is still below average for relief pitchers, we see virtually all of them throwing some kind of breaking pitch extremely frequently. The curveball was the smallest part of Burns’ repertoire, but still a rather significant part. He didn’t generate any swinging strikes with it, which was interesting, but I don’t know that it is a pitch he should necessarily ditch, as pitchers like Jamey Wright, Rafael Betancourt, and Mike Adams all rely on it heavily as relief pitchers with 91 MPH fastballs. Burns obviously has a lot of work to do to be considered a real prospect, and has a lot of things working against him, but if one is imaginative enough, he could become a swing-man, low leverage reliever in the big leagues one day, but the odds are obviously stacked against him at this point.