In 2012, Jake McGee was unbelievable. He went 5-2 with a 1.95 ERA, striking out 73 while walking just 11 in 55.1 innings pitched and allowing only 3 home runs all year. After one appearance in 2013, McGee has already done something he didn’t do his entire career: allow 5 runs in a game. McGee imploded against the Orioles on Opening Day, going just two-thirds of an inning allowing 5 runs on 4 hits, striking out 1 and walking 1 as well, with the big hits being an Adam Jones 2-run double and a Chris Davis 3-run home run. McGee turned what had been a 3-2 Rays lead into a 7-3 deficit. And for his efforts, McGee is currently tied for the American League lead in three categories: losses (1), earned runs (5), and home runs allowed (1). What in the world happened?
McGee’s stuff was electric even as he struggled- the Jones double came on a 98 MPH fastball. He also threw strikes, with 18 of his 21 pitches hitting the zone. However, McGee couldn’t command his fastball at all within the zone, leaving far too many pitches up, and he also had nothing but his fastball. Per Brooks Baseball, McGee threw all fastballs, 17 two-seamers and 4 four-seamers in his outing, and not a single slider. He couldn’t locate his fastball and didn’t trust his breaking ball when he got into a jam, and he paid the price for it.
At this point, what’s done is done. McGee had a horrific outing, one so bad that he would have to toss 23 straight scoreless innings to get his ERA back to 1.95 mark he managed in 2012. Can McGee get his confidence back and resume being a weapon out of the bullpen for the Rays? Yes, but it might take a little while. For an example of a pitcher doing just that, looking no further than Joel Peralta last season. Coming off a season where he managed a 2.93 ERA, Peralta had a horrible start to his 2012 season, managing just a 37.80 ERA in his first four appearances capped off by an appearance where he allowed 4 runs without retiring a batter against the Boston Red Sox. The rest of the season, though, Peralta got himself right back into form, managing a 2.76 ERA to finish the season with a 3.63 mark overall. Peralta is a leader in the team clubhouse, so maybe it’s easier for a player like him to put a series of bad outings in the rearview mirror than it would be for McGee. But Peralta also doesn’t have McGee’s electrifying repertoire.
Maybe McGee’s confidence has taken a hit and it will take a few outings to recover. Perhaps a few more bad games are ahead. No matter what he does, his ERA at the end of the season might be a good deal higher than where it was in 2013. However, Jake McGee will get this outing out of his system and resume being once of the best relievers in baseball before we know it. One outing doesn’t change just how talented he is, and as long as they don’t glance at his ERA for a while, Rays fans will be seeing the dominant pitcher they’re used to seeing when McGee takes the hill extremely soon.