I am kind of digging the Brendon Little experiment. Some of you may look at his stats and wonder what is there to dig. A 5.09 ERA? a WHIP of 1.57? A batting average against of .242? His first start was not something to hang your hat on, as he threw 32 pitches in only one inning of work. But even if it doesn’t show up in some of his stats, he has shown a lot of growth since then.
Little was the Cubs’ No. 1 draft pick in 2017, but was limited for the Eugene Emeralds last summer after throwing 85 innings in junior college. The transition to pro ball didn’t go well and he posted a 9.37 ERA over 16.1 innings, showing unimpressive velocity numbers of around 89-90 mph.
Heading into 2018, my hope was that the velocity would return once the season began and that Little could begin to fulfill the promise of that top pick. When the Cubs drafted the lefty, he threw 91-94, occasionally topping out at 97. He was also going to need some work, as he didn’t have the experience of an average college pitcher coming out of the draft.
Little threw only four innings for North Carolina his freshman year. He then transferred to State College of Florida, a juco at Manatee-Sarasota, where he put up 85 innings in his sophomore year. So while most college pitchers have three years of experience, Little basically has one with just 89 innings. With that in mind, it makes sense that the Cubs would give him more time to develop and adjust.
At this point, it’s really all about fastball command. You can forget about ERA, his FIP, his BAA, and his WHIP. Rather than reviewing the totals, you have to think of his stats more as line graph that shows the differences on a per-game basis. A few stats I want to see Little improve over time include the number of pitches that he throws, the number of innings, and the number of fastballs he throws for strikes.
Here’s what some of those stats were for his first five appearances to date in 2018:
Pitches per outing – 35, 40, 79, 84, 92
Innings per outing – 0.2, 2, 4.2, 4.2, 6
Strikes per outing – 18, 21, 48, 52, 61
Add in the fact that batting average against has also improved each start, along with his WHIP and strikeouts, and it’s evident that things are getting better.
One thing I’ve always taken into consideration with Little is that there is a huge talent difference between junior college and professional baseball. He looks to be trusting his stuff more and attacking rather than nibbling as the season progresses.
Little made his sixth start of the season back on May 11 and it was pretty decent. He went five scoreless innings and walked four but only allowed two hits and struck out five. The only statistics that were out of whack were his 48 strikes out of 80 pitches and the four walks. There’s no stat for bad swings, but the Clinton Lumberkings took plenty of them as they looked helpless against Little’s curveball at times.
I love his curve and if he can continue to improve his fastball command each and every start, along well as some of the stats listed above, there’s gonna be a dramatic difference between the Brendon Little at the beginning of April and the one we see at the end of June. He seems to be learning and improving at a very rapid pace.