Last offseason, I really wanted the Mets to pluck Tony Watson from the Pittsburgh Pirates. The southpaw was fairly cheap and is a hard throwing lefty who hurls a solid sinker. He has a lot of potential to be a very good value signing for the Mets given that he will likely be even cheaper than he was a calendar year ago.
Watson, over his last five seasons, has posted a 160 ERA+ over 358.2 innings between the Bucs and Los Angeles Dodgers. The latter appear unlikely to bring him back after their recent acquisition of fellow lefty Scott Alexander from the Royals.
The 32-year-old’s specialty over his career is being a hard throwing lefty who features a good sinker, as mentioned above. The problem is, despite his sinker, he only has a career 44.3 percent ground ball rate against him. The interesting thing was after his trade to the Dodgers this past July, his ground ball rate jumped to 59.3 percent. That is a number much more expected for a sinker baller. However, was that a change in his game or was it just a small sample size? Well, the Dodgers use data more than any team in baseball so let’s see what they did with Watson.
Watson, after coming over to the Dodgers, started throwing his sinker 36 percent of the time to 46 percent of the time. While a 10 point jump might not seem huge, Brooks Baseball charted how Watson’s different pitch usage changed from month to month. Watson started using that sinker 42 percent of the time his first month with the Dodgers in August and that number jumped to 53.4 percent in September. As a result of his newfound sinker usage, he had the 14th lowest exit velocity against him in September. If it interests anyone, Jeurys Familia and Jerry Blevins had the seventh and eighth lowest exit velocities that month.
He had the 11th lowest exit velocity against him for all of 2017 at 82.5 MPH. In September of 2017, the exit velocity against him was 79.6 MPH. It’s possible all of this is a coincidence but given how much the Dodgers use data to their advantage, I would bet against it.
If you think I over analyze data too much, just read about what they do. I seriously believe Watson made a change to his game and whatever team signs him next will benefit from what the Dodgers had him do. Let’s hope the Mets see this is an opportunity to add a solid reliever who could get better at a very reasonable cost.
Plus, bringing him in as a second lefty in the bullpen to complement Blevins would be a solid move and help round out the team’s pitching staff.