After finally making a successful major league debut last season, there was plenty of optimism regarding Taylor Jungmann heading into 2016. The lanky right hander posted a 3.77 ERA and 3.92 FIP in 119.1 innings pitched in 2015 and the hope was that coming into this season, he could be counted on a solid innings-eater in the middle of the rotation. Not quite the ace production that the Milwaukee Brewers hoped to be getting when they tabbed Taylor in the first round of the 2011 draft, but a solid contributor nonetheless.
Unfortunately that has not been the case in the early going for the Brewers. Despite managing to post a respectable 5-7 record through their first 12 games, Milwaukee's starting rotation boasts the league's third-worst cumulative ERA at 5.28. That's thanks in no small part to Jungmann, who has already allowed 13 earned runs in 13 innings pitched through his first three starts.
Though it's still early on in the season, a troubling trend has become apparent for Jungmann: He's lost a significant amount zip on his fastball. According to Brooks Baseball, last season Taylor threw his four-seamer with an average velocity of 92.59 MPH. So far in 2016, Jungmann has thrown the four-seam fastball at an average of just 90.53 MPH, a decrease of more than two miles-per-hour. He has also all but abandoned the use of his sinker to this point in the season, as well. After throwing the pitch nearly 13% of the time last year at an average speed of 92.26 MPH, Pitch F/X has registered just one sinker thrown by Jungmann in 2016, coming in at 89 MPH.
Beyond the sudden loss of velocity, Jungmann's fastball has also become much more straight. He's lost over an inch of horizontal break (2.83 inches to the arm-side last season to 1.70 inches this year) and the pitch doesn't "rise" near as much as it did in 2015 (8.43 inches of vertical movement vs. 7.34 inches in 2016).
Jungmann was able to hit 93-94 MPH with some consistency last year but so far this season batters have been able to tee of against his slower, straighter fastball. With a weighted fastball runs above-average (wFA) mark of -6.4 runs per Pitch F/X, only Mike Fiers and Tom Wilhelmsen have been less effective than Jungmann with their four-seamers so far this season. Opponents have hit .333 with a .726 slugging percentage against Taylor's fastball in 2016.
Taylor Jungmann has always had below-average command and that issue is only exacerbated by a loss of life on his fastball. Where one can perhaps get away with missing their spots when they're able to reach back for 94 MPH, a pitcher living in the 89-90 MPH zone isn't afforded that same luxury as batters won't have as much trouble catching up with those mistakes. Unless Jungmann can either find his lost velocity or take the next step with his command, it's not likely that he survives the entire season while remaining in the Brewers' starting rotation.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Brooks Baseball