Notes On Some Other Relievers

On Monday I wrote about Phil Maton, and how he’s using his high-spin fastball up in the zone, mostly to solid early success. In the process I found some interesting factoids on a few other Padres relievers.

Brad Hand—Speaking of spin rate, Hand actually has a higher four-seam fastball spin rate than Maton this season at 2,532 rpm, 10th-best in the league. He doesn’t have the same success as Maton with the heater, however, as he’s given up a .342 wOBA against so far this season on four-seamers. Part of those moderate struggles could be attributable to Hand’s release point. His release point extension is just south of five feet, the second-lowest figure in the league among pitchers with at least 100 fastballs thrown this year, behind only Jharel Cotton. That brings Hand’s perceived velocity from 93 mph down to 90.59 mph, which could explain part of the reason why hitters have found some success.

Of course, Hand’s been tremendous overall this season, in part because he’s thrown his filthy slider nearly 45 percent of the time. Hand gets a whiff on 20 percent of his sliders, twice the rate of his four-seamer. He’s also allowed a paltry 0.058 opponents ISO on the slider. With the most innings pitched among relievers since the start of last season, and two and a half years of team control left, Hand is expected to command a solid return at (or before) the oncoming trade deadline.

Kirby Yates—Here’s the four-seam fastball whiff rate leaderboard:

  1. Craig Kimbrel, 21.48 percent
  2. Kirby Yates, 19.71 percent
  3. Pedro Baez, 19.71 percent
  4. Shawn Kelley, 19.19 percent
  5. Josh Hader, 18.58 percent

Hello.

I can’t tell what it is exactly about Yates’ fastball that has been so good this year. The velo, spin rate, extension, they’re all okay-to-good, but nothing really jumps out. Both Kimbrel and Baez, for instance, consistently sit in the high 90s with their fastballs, whereas Yates checks in at a more normal 93.9. Either way, the spike in fastball effectiveness has helped lead to Yates’ best major-league season this year. In New York and Tampa Bay, earlier in his career, he was either bitten by walks or home runs (or both); so far this season he’s ironed out both of those issues, posting a 2.6 BB/9 and 1.0 HR/9 since joining San Diego. It’s hard to build a ton of trade value in half a season, especially past the age of 30, but a contender in desperate need of relief help may be interested in a flyer.

Ryan Buchter—If you ignore the rough edges, throw on your favorite pair of rose-colored glasses, and squint just a little bit, Buchter is Brad Hand. He doesn’t offer the same control or homer prevention, but Buchter’s 30.8 strikeout percentage since 2016 ranks 28th in baseball (tied with Yates and just four spots behind Hand) among the 208 relievers with at least 50 innings pitched over that span. Buchter’s under control for a while, so the Padres don’t need to deal him now. He is riding a hot hand, though, and the numbers look good, so don’t be surprised if he’s shopped this month.

Brandon Maurer—Maurer has been done in by disastrous outings. Over his three worst games this year, he’s given up 11 runs in two-thirds of one full inning, and that’s not a typo. Take out those three clunkers—I know, that’s not how this works—and he’s rolling with a 2.85 ERA and really good peripherals.

And that’s the thing about Maurer. The peripherals look really good, like they usually do, as Sac Bunt Chris wrote about earlier this season. He’s working on the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of his career, at five-to-one, and he’s allowing fewer than a home run an inning in a homer-happy era. His cFIP, 92, is right around where it’s been since 2015, and he can light up 100 on the radar gun. Maurer’s under control through 2019, so there’s no reason the Padres have to trade him by the end of the month; that is, unless a team wants to trade for the pitcher Maurer’s underlying statistics say he is.

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  • ballybunion

    With two more years of control, the same as Maurer, why would the Padres trade Hand now, at the deadline? He’s not the closer some other teams need, and he could probably fetch as good a return in the off-season as at the deadline.

    Maurer would be the guy teams want, if not for that ugly ERA. As you pointed out, it was the result of just a few short appearances. Maurer has been a regular steady-Eddie in save opportunities 19 for 21, and other teams with smart GMs had to have noticed that.

    So why is Hand, more suited to setup, more likely to be traded than Maurer, who can close?

    • I think Hand would be the better closer, right? He’s better vs. lefties, sure, but he’s been good vs. righties since 2016. And aren’t most of these teams, outside of maybe Washington, looking more for set-up types than closers, anyway?

      Overall, I think you trade Hand now because teams sometimes overpay at the deadline and because reliever value is so fickle. If he falls apart a bit over the last couple months of the season, you aren’t getting much at all. So you’re trading at a high point.

      Maurer, while the peripherals are great and teams no doubt notice that, isn’t the type of guy a team’s going to bring in to solve any bullpen problems. He’s got a 78 ERA+ over his career now, and it’s over 300 innings and mostly as a reliever. I think he’s a guy you can hold onto and hope that he puts it all together over the rest of this season and/or into 2018.