With the offseason as cold as the weather outside, I want to take a look at players who could take steps forward in 2018. First up is reliever Paul Sewald. The right-hander is a personal favorite of mine for several reasons.
Sewald was with the big league squad for most of the season and worked himself into a fairly large role on the team. The problem was how weird he was used by Terry Collins.
The 27-year-old would be used as a long man or would be asked to face a high number of lefties. Sewald was a kiss of death against righties, as they only hit .200/.245/.362 against him with a .265 wOBA. Lefties, on the other hand, hit .281/.385/.441 with a .353 wOBA against him. Sewald faced 164 righties opposed to 111 lefties, meaning if he can be used better, his numbers would look much better. He also delivered a decent 3.74 FIP in 2017 but had a fairly strong 3.20 FIP against righties.
Looking at pitch value, Sewald’s fastball ranked No. 53 in value among 462 pitchers with 30 innings pitched. His Statcast numbers would seem to agree with this trend. Out of 539 pitchers with 300 pitches thrown, Sewald’s fastball ranks No. 117 in terms of spin rate. His fastball spins at a rate of 2,362 revolutions per minute which is better than Brandon Morrow, Brad Brach, Tommy Kahnle and Anthony Swarzak.
Before we dismiss this as monkey stats or mumbo jumbo, I will point out that the (World Champion) Houston Astros worship Statcast and spin rate. So much so, they fired most of their scouting department to focus on it.
I’m not saying Sewald was better than those pitchers listed above, but his fastball did generate more movement than those pitchers. With proper location, he can make that pitch even more dangerous. Looking at his heat maps, right-handed hitters have almost no chance against Sewald’s fastball. Statcast would confirm this, as righties had just a .212 expected batting average against Sewald’s fastball with a .282 expected weighted on base average against that same pitch.
Now this doesn’t mean he can just keep throwing one fastball after the other. He needs to improve his slider and he needs to be used more efficiently. However, he is someone who has real potential given the movement he is able to generate on his fastball.