I recently read an article on Fangraphs written by Ben Clemens, Failure Files: Far From Average. The article discussed pitch movement and how it can be applied when reading data on the effectiveness of a pitch. After reading through it, I had the idea to find comparable movement data on specific pitches for pitchers currently in the Yankees organization. Two pitch comparisons stuck out to me and wanted to think aloud about whether those comparisons could lead to similar on field results.
Deivi Garcia’s vertical and horizontal movement on his fastball looks pretty good. In fact, its comparable to 2020 NL Cy Young award winner (and future Yankee?) Trevor Bauer.
Bauer’s horizontal movement was -5.5 inches and his vertical movement was+ 10.7 inches. For comparison, Garcia’s horizontal and vertical movement were -5 and +10. A half inch each way could be the difference between smoking a line drive and hitting a can of corn to center field but these numbers should show the potential in Deivi’s fastball. That improvement will likely come from increases in velocity. Garcia’s average fastball velocity was 92.3 MPH and Bauer’s was 93.8 MPH.
If Garcia has a full offseason and spring training to work with pitching coach Matt Blake, it’s possible some extra velocity could be unlocked. After all, Bauer has average velocity at worst so the goal isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Another variable at play would be usage which refined through experience. In 2020, Bauer threw his fastball 45.58% of the time while Garcia sat around 59.83% of the time. Garcia has good off speed and breaking pitches so if he can figure out a way to throw his fastball less, he could see improved results against it.
Mike King didn’t have the best 2020 season but there was something special about his sinker. Comparing it to the sinker of the 2020 Cy Young runner up, Kenta Maeda, his sinker’s movement was very similar.
King’s horizontal and vertical movement were -9.6 and 3.7 while Maeda’s was -9.3 and 4.4. Their velocities were very different, however, as King was throwing his sinker at 93.3 MPH and Maeda was throwing his sinker at 91.1 MPH. It might be that King throwing his sinker with a little less velocity would give him that extra -0.3 and 0.7 inches to match Maeda.
Now, this comes with a catch. Sinker ball pitches are known as strikeout pitches which means they rely on getting groundballs and having a great (or at least good) infield defense behind them to convert those groundballs to outs. As far as getting those groundballs, King was much better that Maeda, who was still pretty good. King got groundballs on 60.38% of the sinkers he threw that were put into play while Maeda got groundballs on 54.55% of sinkers that were put into play. That’s really good to see until you remember the infield defense outside of Gio Urshela and DJ LeMahieu was suspect at best. If King can refine that sinker a bit more, he could see some really positive results from the change.
None of this is to say that Deivi Garcia or Mike King are going to end up finishing anywhere close to the top of the Cy Young voting in 2021. All this tells us is that there is potential here for both of these pitchers if a couple of tweaks are made and other factors at play manage to go their way.