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Bullpen Banter: Has Edwin Diaz Emerged As An Elite Closing Option?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016 5:22
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by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

You can’t argue that Edwn Diaz took well to his transition from starter to reliever. Maybe there were a few bumps along the way, but the numbers he posted were among the elite:

51.2 IP
2.79 ERA
1.16 WHIP
15.33 K/9
2.61 BB/9

Walks had never been a major issue, with a minor league career BB/9 of 3.0. He had also always shown the propensity to generate swings and misses, but coming out for an inning at a time allowed him to truly put his swing and miss stuff on display.  With a fastball averaging 97.3 mph, he posted a gaudy 18.5% SwStr%. Complementing it with a nearly unhittable slider, the strikeout rate seems realistic. Just look at the Whiff% for his two pitches:

  • Fourseam Fastball – 12.93%
  • Slider – 34.83%

Unsurprisingly nearly all of the damage came against his fastball (.292 BAA with 5 HR). Opponents hit a mere .141 against the slider, though they rarely made contact. Of course the BABIP on his fastball was an unrealistic .394, so it’s easy to imagine that number coming down substantially.

Then you have the groundballs, with a 46.8% mark. While it’s not an elite number, considering the strikeouts and solid control it is more than playable and gives the makeup of an elite reliever moving forward.

Interestingly Prospect 361 cited his delivery as a potential reason for the change in role prior to last season:

“While the arsenal is good, what makes Diaz effective is his low three-quarters delivery. Batters, particularly, right-handed batters do not pick up the delivery well. While there is deception, many times pitchers with a lower delivery wind up in the pen.”

They also noted that left-handed hitters could pose a problem, though that wasn’t the case last season (.195 with 2 HR). That’s certainly promising and adds to the appeal moving forward.

Could there be a few stumbles along the way? Absolutely, but it certainly appears that he’s emerged as one of the Top 10-12 closer’s in the game. With this type of outpitch, velocity and command, the potential is there to be even better than that. While we’ve learned relief pitchers can be fickle, he’s a name you will want to target moving forward.

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Brooks Baseball, Prospect 361

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