With the offseason not really in full swing still (talk about a slow moving market), I thought it would be fun to look at some players who have the potential to improve in 2018. Today’s player is Jacob deGrom and you’re probably wondering, why on Earth is a guy who just posted a five win season with over 200 innings pitched on this list?
Last season, deGrom was great for a lot of it but his Achilles heel was the home run ball. deGrom gave up 28 homers, which was the 14th most in all of baseball. How is it that such a good pitcher gave up so many homers? I’m guessing luck and juiced balls.
The odds of Jacob deGrom giving up that many home runs again in 2018 seems unlikely given the weak contact generated against him. Out of pitchers who had 50 batted balls against them, deGrom had the 112th lowest exit velocity against fly balls and line drives by opposing hitters. That number might not seem that impressive but it will when I tell you that the list included 561 pitchers.
When we narrow that list down to pitchers who had 150 batted balls against them, deGrom jumps to 48 out of 325 other pitchers. Some of the pitchers that deGrom ranks ahead of include Rich Hill, Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer and Gerrit Cole. Now this is not the be all end all, but the point is, deGrom gives up relatively weak contact on balls in the air or in other words, balls that can be hit for home runs. To add onto this, deGrom only gave up an average of 163 feet on batted balls against him. Unless you play at Yankee Stadium, it’s difficult to hit to hit a ball 163 feet for a home run.
The right-hander also only gave up a barreled ball in just 3.7 percent of the plate appearances against him. A barreled ball is almost exactly like what it sounds like. It’s when a hitter gets the barrel of his bat on the ball, they get a barrel next to their name. When a pitcher allows a hitter to barrel up his pitch, then he gets a barrel next to his name. It’s good for hitters and bad for pitchers.
In total, deGrom gave up 31 barrels, which might not look good, but it is also right along most of the pitchers who pitched as much as he did. For example, Chris Sale gave up 30, Marcus Stroman gave up 32, Luis Severino gave up 30. For starting pitchers, giving up that many barrels is not uncommon. Also important to keep in mind is that not all barrels will result in home runs. So far, we’ve seen that deGrom is tough to generate hard contact off, and it’s not particularly easy to square up the ball against him. Both individually are not the ends to the means that deGrom was unlucky, but together, they start painting a picture.
Now here’s some of the facts about how much movement deGrom generated on his pitches.
- Among pitchers with 50 fastballs thrown, Jacob deGrom ranks 137th out of 575 in spin rate on his fastball with 2358 revolutions per minute.
- Among pitchers with 50 sliders thrown, deGrom ranks 135th out of 403 in spin rate on his slider with 2451 revolutions per minute.
- Among pitchers with 50 curveballs thrown, deGrom ranks 99th out of 252 in spin rate on his curveball with 2555 revolutions per minute.
- Among pitchers with 50 changeups thrown, deGrom ranks 142nd out of 328 in spin rate on his changeup with 1780 revolutions per minute.
What do those numbers say? Well in layman terms, it would say Jacob deGrom gets above average movement on all of his pitches and in some cases, he gets very well above average movement.
Spin rate by itself just tells us what kind of movement the pitcher usually generates. So like I said about other statistics above, it’s not the be all end all by itself. But, deGrom generated weak contact on fly balls and line drives, he didn’t give up much distance on balls hit against him, he was tough to square up, and he was very good at getting movement on his pitches. All those put together suggests to me that deGrom could very easily decrease the home runs against him and be as good as he was at any time in his career.
I have a lot of faith in Jake as we head into 2018. He was our best pitcher in 2018 and has been one of the best since coming into the league. I think his counting stats will improve drastically if he can repeat his Statcast numbers from 2017. Count me as one of those who are on his hype train as we are just one short month from Spring Training.