In the minor leagues, Jose Butto was known for his changeup. He was called up to make a spot start in 2022 and he showed a fastball in the mid-90s, along with a slider and a curve. The two breaking balls were effective in his MLB debut but both his fastball and change were hit around. He wound up allowing 7 ER in 4 IP for a 15.75 ERA.

Few fans were counting on much MLB help from Butto in 2023 based on that one outing. But he remains the closest prospect to the majors to potentially offer starting pitching help. Of course, he’s likely behind four other depth starters, so Butto may or may not get another start for the Mets in this upcoming season.

But Butto did start for the team on the first day of Grapefruit League play, as he got the start against the Marlins in a split-squad game Saturday night. Teams rarely use their aces to start off the Spring Training schedule but it’s still noteworthy to see who gets the ball first. Butto threw 43 pitches in his 1.2 IP stint and struck out four consecutive batters.

Butto threw his fastball in 23 of his 43 pitches and he repeated his results from his spot start last year, with an average velocity of 95.4 mph, with a high of 97. That was the fastest pitch from any of the 15 pitchers used in the game on both sides. In fact, Butto registered the top six velocities in the game and tied on the seventh.

The Baseball Savant pitch algorithms identified Butto throwing a cutter, rather than a slider in this game. It’s possible that’s a new wrinkle in his repertoire. It’s also possible that one algorithm’s cutter is another algorithm’s slider. Savant did not have Butto throwing a slider in the game. Regardless, he threw the cutter 10 times, getting four swings and three misses with the pitch. Only one of the 10 pitches was in the strike zone, so Butto did a nice job getting hitters to chase on the pitch. No cutters were put into play, as the only time a Marlin made contact with the pitch was a foul ball.

There were also five changeups and five curves from Butto last night. There was 10 mph difference in the velocity between his four-seamer and change. It’s perhaps slightly disappointing that Butto got just one whiff on the pitch, given the velocity difference. But with only five pitches to go on, and with two of the five being well off the plate, there’s not much there to draw any conclusions.

And while there was significant separation between the change and the fastball, the change was not the slowest pitch for Butto last night. His curve had an average velocity of 81.3, which was a full four mph slower than his change. Butto’s slowest curve registered 80.7 mph, quite a difference from his 97 mph fastball.

The Marlins did not put one of the 20 non-fastballs by Butto into play. This sounds more impressive than perhaps it is. You hope to get swings-and-misses on these pitches. But you also hope to get some weak contact, too. Of course, with four of his five outs coming via strikeout, there simply wasn’t a lot of chance for balls in play and weak contact. Butto allowed no hits and walked two batters in the game.

All in all, it was a very encouraging first appearance from Butto. Hopefully, we’ll see some better command from him in his second outing, as he had 24 strikes and 19 balls in the game. According to Savant, 26 of his pitches were outside the strike zone. The good news from that is he got batters to chase. The bad news being the two walks to the seven batters he faced.


Here are some other notes from the two games the Mets played yesterday that got lost over the excitement from homers by Pete Alonso and Brett Baty:

Jeff Brigham threw 24 pitches, evenly split between his fastball and slider. He averaged 94.5 mph with his fastball and he had the highest spin rate of any pitch by any Mets hurler with a max of 2,897 with his slider. He got either a called strike or a whiff on six of his 12 sliders.

Nathan Lavender, a lefty reliever who made my top 50 list on the strength of 67 Ks in 47.2 IP at two A-ball stops last year, needed just five pitches to hurl a complete inning. He got former Met Jake Mangum to ground out to first, got his second batter to pop out to first and struck out the final batter of the game on three pitches.

Tommy Pham had three balls with an exit velocity of 104 mph or greater but went 0-3 in the game.

Daniel Vogelbach batted seventh and went 2-3. In something that may not happen again in his professional career, Francisco Alvarez came on to pinch run for Vogelbach after the slimmed-down lefty singled in the fifth inning.

William Lugo and Mark Vientos were the only Mets to get hits besides Baty against the Astros. Vientos singled to center in the sixth inning and Lugo, another entrant on my top 50 list, singled to right in the seventh in his only plate appearance of the game.

Rule 5 pick Zach Greene hurled a scoreless inning. He faced four batters and did not allow a hit, with a walk being the only runner to reach base against him.

The game against the Astros lasted 2:33 while the tilt versus the Marlins checked in at 2:35. The Mets’ first Spring Training game last year clocked in at 2:55.

11 comments on “Jose Butto’s strong first outing and other notes from the Mets’ first day in Grapefruit League action

  • BoomBoom

    I read abt the addition of the cutter elsewhere so I think he might be on to something. Starting pitching depth this year is very strong.

  • Metsense

    That was a very nice summary Brian. Very unique and informative. The use of Baseball Savant and your opinion was exceptional. It makes Mets360 the go to place for game summaries and analysis. Thanks!

  • T.J.

    Butto is an interesting guy. Syracuse can have quite the interesting staff depending on where Peterson and Megill wind up. At this point, the SP depth looks pretty good despite the lack of high end prospects close to the show.

    I was originally opposed to the shift ban and clocks, but I think these rule changes should make for a better looking product. Hopefully, the players adjust quickly to the clock and the penalties don’t become a big part of the game.

    • Brian Joura

      Five years ago, I would have been against the pitch clock. But it’s been apparent to me for a couple of years now that the game needed one. I’m still massively opposed to banning the shift.

      I’m not worried about players adjusting to new rules. Batters don’t want to be down 0-1 and pitchers don’t want to be in a 1-0 hole, either. It’s different but it’s not rocket science. Hitters get in the box, pitchers get ready to throw.

      One thing I wonder about is if the quicker games will lead to longer outings from the starters.

      • T.J.

        Interesting. What is holding you steadfast against the shift? For me, my preference was for the adjustments to evolve naturally. But, it became clear that if anything, more shifting would occur based on offensive and defensive data, and that resulted in too much erosion from the watchability. They can still shift, and dramatically if the so choose, but I do agree with the ban on crossing the midpoint of the field for the left and right side infielders.

        The rule that still irks me is that runner in 2B in extras….at least wait to the 12th inning…

        • Brian Joura

          There are things that are outside of the control of the players and that’s where the league needs to step in and make adjustments. The pitch clock is a great example of this. The pitcher can’t stop the batter from stepping out of the box and taking a stroll and the hitter can’t stop the pitcher from taking forever to throw the ball.

          But batters can stop teams from shifting – for the most part they choose not to do so. I’m not a fan of bunting but it’s something that every MLB player should know how to do. Shoot, Dave Kingman used to bunt when teams would play their 3B in LF against him. If someone as hard-headed as Kingman could do it, why can’t today’s players do it?

          In a way, MLB is like a parent giving in to a kid throwing a tantrum. “I want to do things my way” say the players as they roll around the floor screaming and creating a scene. And MLB goes, “OK, honey if you’ll just stop it, I’ll make those fielders move away from where you like to hit the ball.”

          How many times have we heard that it’s a game of adjustments? And now we’re adjusting the rules so the players don’t have to adjust? What’s next? If hitters can’t hit Senga’s ghost fork – are they going to outlaw the pitch?

          And the other reason is that I’m a fan of innovation within the game. Just because teams have always done things one way – or do it that way now – doesn’t mean that every team has to, or should, do things that way. Every team had a LOOGY. But if your lefty relievers stink, you shouldn’t carry one just because the other teams are doing it. The shift was an innovation and I don’t like legislating innovation out of the game. You go back and check the archives on the site and you can find I wasn’t a fan of the three-batter rule, either.

          Now, if you wanted to attack shifting as a “pace of play” killer, I wouldn’t be 100% opposed to that. Once a team shifts in an AB, it has to keep that alignment throughout the PA. No longer have the 3B running back and forth depending on the count. I wouldn’t advocate for that but wouldn’t think it was terrible, either. But it seems the pitch clock might have done away with that, anyway.

          • JimmyP

            It’s worth noting that 2022’s overall BA. of .243 was the lowest since 1968, a year that saw the lowering of the mound. The shift contributed to that.

            But I am with you in spirit on this one, Brian. Not that I wanted to see a lot of bunting, but I thought we’d see hitters adapting to the new opportunities — a skill developed over time.

            Love the pitch clock with all my heart. Been complaining about pace of play for more than a decade.

  • JimmyP

    Pure eye test, Butto did not impress me. Hitters looked like it was their first live game, behind on everything, and it wasn’t an impressive lineup in the first place. Didn’t love Butto’s location — he walked two and was high often — or the little wrinkle of a cutter looked like a bad slider. Maybe a nice pitch to have vs. LH batters. It was effective in that outing, but it did not make a believer out of me.

    Maybe he’s better than what I *think* I saw.

  • NYM6986

    I see strikeouts rising with the pitch clock as batters are not going to be ready. Not a fan of a called strike in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and the bases loaded. Perhaps they could suspend the pitch clock rules for the 8th and 9th innings. Could you imagine David Wright surviving with this rule change as he adjusted his batting gloves after every pitch. That drove me crazy. I think if a team wants to play all their fielders in the infield as a shift they should be able to do what they want. It is up to the hitters to beat the shift. But banning the shift and making the bases bigger will lengthen games, so not sure what their logic is when they have been whining about the need for shorter games.

    • Brian Joura

      In college basketball, when they first introduced the shot clock, they turned it off for the last four minutes of the game. But that’s when they needed it the most! They quickly got rid of that rule.

      I’m not a big fan of playing by one set of rules for part of the game and another set of rules for a different part of the game. It’s one of the reason the zombie runner on second in extra innings is so infuriating.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 100 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here