Today was another solid start from Phillippe Aumont in what is rapidly becoming an unbelievable story. Of his 4 starts so far, Aumont has been scoreless in 3 of them and overall has gone 21 innings with 16 hits, 3 earned runs, 5 walks, and 16 strikeouts. I want to write a big breakdown about Phillippe, but unfortunately there is no time, so here are some thoughts about the big righty in Lehigh Valley.
The first thing you notice with Aumont on the mound is that he looks relaxed and it looks easier. In the bullpen his delivery wasn’t smooth and often wasn’t consistent pitch to pitch. Aumont has lost 25 pounds this offseason and he looks more athletic, which helps the repeatability, but also he is not overthrowing the ball. It was common in the bullpen to see him yank a pitch wide has he tried to light up the radar gun, now it is more under control. The velocity does suffer, and so does some of the fastball movement, but the results has been a fastball in the 89-93 range that he has shown the ability to control around the zone. He has reached back for 94 to 95 at times, but it is only as needed. There isn’t the pitch command you will see from someone like Aaron Nola, but he now lives around the strikezone and it is rare anything misses by very much (except by design).
The fastball has ticked back, as has the splitter, both are now more average to above average based on velocity and movement. However, they are better pitches than their wilder and faster counterparts because he can throw them for strikes consistently. This brings us to the third pitch, his curveball. There is nothing that has gone backwards about the pitch, it is nasty ,with sharp two plane movement. What he lacks in command of his other pitches he makes up with curveball command, against the Clippers he was able break it in and out of the zone. He caught a right handed batter looking by starting it inside and breaking it into the zone, before doing the same to a left handed batter by breaking it onto the outside corner. He can go to the fastball for a strike more than he used to, but the curve has been his go to pitch.
In addition to everything else, being in the rotation has allowed Aumont to make adjustments in-game. If he misses with some fastballs he can go to the curveball to get back in line, and overall there is less need to blow away the hitter in front of him. This has allowed him to set up hitters both in at bats and throughout the game. There have been some moments of concern as he flashes the warning signs from his past of an imminent blow-up, only to come back from the brink. In today’s start he had a gorgeous curveball get called a ball (it looked like a strike), he stepped off the mound, said a few words to himself, and fired a fastball down and in to the left handed batter for a swinging strikeout. He worked a bunch of three ball counts in early innings where he was able to go for a strike and didn’t try to nibble or blow one past the batter. Overall it was very impressive.
Now on to the big question, what is he? I had a quick back and forth with KRAM from Noise Nation after Aumont’s last start where I said if I didn’t know his history I’d say he was a college guy towards the back of a Top 30 with back of the rotation upside. That might have been a bit specific and selling him short but not by too much. At his best he probably has two above average pitches (though we will see how the fastball velocity is over time), and one plus or better pitch (in the curveball). It is more control than command, and while he is only 26 it is hard to see more than average command here. If he can throw strikes with the fastball, varying the velocity and movement of the pitch (something he has done so far) he is going to be fine. It looks like a #4 starter right now to me. Major league hitters are going to force him to be more precise and they aren’t going to be as dumbfounded by the curve as AAA hitters are. He is able to hold velocity, and delivery looks easy enough right now that I am not too concerned about durability (there is also not a lot of mileage on the arm, though there is some high effort miles mixed in). I think a lot of what Aumont is doing is real, but we have seen him struggle to be efficient at times and I worry about whether he always be able to handle high leverage situations (will he try to be too fine, will he overthrow).
EDIT: According to Joe Jordan, Aumont’s fastball was 94-96 today.