Last night, DJ Herz returned to his hometown of Fayetteville, NC, and pitched in front of a large number of friends and family for the first time as a professional. And he had a quintessential DJ Herz start: four innings, one hit and zero runs allowed, a season-high 10 strikeouts against three walks.
Cool story today: Cubs DJ Herz was back pitching in his hometown of Fayetteville for the first time as a pro. He struck out 10 catches in 4 white innings. pic.twitter.com/9dg1VCJ6gp
– Live leads (@ProspectsLive) August 22, 2021
That brought Herz’s strikeout rate to 41.7%. This number certainly sounds impressive on its own, but let me make it more impressive: Herz’s strikeout rate is the highest in the FanGraphs era (2006-2021) by a pitcher with 10 starts at an A-ball level.
Wow. If there was ever a statistic to slap me and say Hey wake up to this ridiculous it’s this one. (And I asked Brett to lead the same request on FanGraphs to recheck.)
Yes, we know baseball players are hitting more than ever, with the Low-A average rising dramatically over the past two years, and even less over the past fifteen. But Herz is still the best dog of this season, at 20, his first go-around in the middle of the season. It is an absolutely incredible feat. No matter the caveats, you have to recognize it.
Overall last night was a very good proxy for Herz on the mound. He was heavy with fastballs, but dominant with, racking up 12 swings and misses my card game. Life on the pitch is nothing short of absurd, and with the adrenaline rush of his surroundings, Herz was able to hit 96 mph on the stadium cannon in the second round.
I think my favorite thing about this one: The right-handed hitters went 0-10 with ten strikeouts against Herz tonight. Not a typo. pic.twitter.com/6PUPfhyQBu
– Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) August 22, 2021
There would be one at batting where Herz’s awesome delivery of all of Herz’s arms and legs seemed out of control, with fastballs exploding over the area, then a batter later he would be locked in and throwing strikes again. The change, often his best pitch this season, was not quite there (missing). It didn’t matter. The curved ball was even more shaped like a cursor than normal. It didn’t matter. Herz continually adjusted, generally did a good job leading hitters, and never had a problem finishing them.
The strangest thing about this one was the division of the platoon. The lefties were responsible for the two (lulz) balls in play that he allowed, including the isolated hit (only one on the ground) and two of his three walks. Meanwhile, the right-handed hitters got a laughable 0 for 10 with TEN strikeouts and a march. They’re just hitting .145 against him. No one can get used to that stuff outside of this exit point.
K number five for Herz pic.twitter.com/s7RAEoV7LW
– Josh Norris (@ jnorris427) August 21, 2021
(Other than that, because Herz’s season had a terrible start, I sometimes like to update her season numbers without that start. Yeah, I know baseball doesn’t work that way, but I do when. same: 57.2 IP, 26H, 2.34 ERA, 33 BB, 98 K. Cool, cool.)
It is not difficult to know where Herz still needs work. He will have to become more efficient to become a starter, both in terms of avoiding strikes and finding a way to hit faster hitters. It will be interesting to see how more advanced hitters handle the fastball, especially those of the early count get-me-over variety. I’d be tempted to move Herz to South Bend now to get some data on this.
There’s more work to be done in the weight room to get that more consistent speed in the mid-90s. I think a fourth step (cutter?) Will be in sight at some point. We’ll have to see the small tweaks here and there that the Cubs choose to use with this delivery.
It’s easy to see the to-do list, but with Herz, I wonder if the key isn’t to let the numbers (um, dare I say: historical?) Remind you of the potential. Because he’s tall and we should have fun dreaming about him.