SCOTTSDALE — It’s as stunning as it was effective. Of Jake McGee’s pitches last year, 97 percent were fastballs.
In his spring debut, the percentage plummeted to about 86 percent. Seven pitches, six fastballs.
His dominant pitch looked dominant Thursday, when he struck out Eloy Jimenez on four pitches, induced an Andrew Vaughn groundout on two before Leury Garcia flew out on the first pitch he saw.
According to the Scottsdale Stadium scoreboard, there was one 80-mph slider, which he threw for a strike, and six fastballs from 93-95 mph. Gabe Kapler called the outing “super encouraging,” and it looked like the same McGee who struck out 33 and walked just three in 20 1/3 innings with the Dodgers last year.
“I feel like my stuff was really good today, had some good fastballs away to the righties,” said the lefty, who only faced righty White Sox hitters. “Threw a slider for a strike, which is big for me.”
The slider may become a bigger pitch for the 34-year-old this season, but partly naturally: It’s nearly impossible to throw one pitch as often as he did his fastball, especially over the course of a 162-game season.
He snuck his slider in to Vaughn for a first-pitch strike before going back to his best pitch to get Vaughn out. That went just about according to plan.
“I feel like I’ll mix [the slider] in more if I can throw it for a first pitch against a righty and then steal a strike like that. They’re obviously looking for a fastball,” the San Jose native, who’s the best bet to open as Giants closer, said over Zoom. “As long as my fastball is moving the right way after I throw my slider, going to mix in my slider against lefties and righties overall. The big thing is to just make sure my metrics are good the next fastball I throw.”
The metrics are big for McGee, who partly picked the Giants in free agency because of a coaching staff that prides itself on being forward-thinking. And prides itself on being communicative, which has been McGee’s experience through the first few weeks of camp.
After McGee throws, pitching coach Andrew Bailey sends him the metrics — the velocity, the movement, etc., the next morning.
“That’s been nice,” said McGee, entering his 12th big-league season. “Knowing where my stuff is every day and knowing what I need to work on.”
A pitcher who’s been to Driveline, who dives deeply into his own stuff, is pretty comfortable. He also has teammates both from LA and elsewhere, having played with Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford at the World Baseball Classic.
Crawford probably knows him best as a frustrating pitcher who has fooled him plenty.
“We’ve actually joked he’s thrown me a ton of sliders even though he never throws them to anybody else,” Crawford said Thursday. “His fastball … it definitely misses barrels and misses bats. I don’t know what it is exactly, it’s probably spinrate or something like that, but he throws fastballs at the top and fastballs at the bottom. When you throw mid-90s like he does, it’s hard to square up.”