Mike Petriello with MLB.com has an interesting piece up today, in which he takes some of the best pitches in MLB (by pitch and pitcher), and then uses the Statcast data to figure out what pitchers throw a pitch that is closest to that dominant pitch.
Its an interesting article that makes great use of the Statcast data, and looks at, among other things, who is the closest to Gerrit Cole’s curveball, Zack Britton’s sinker and Blake Snell’s fastball, among others.
One of the pitches that Petriello looks like is Dustin May’s sinker — he describes it as “May’s ridiculous power sinker” — that the Los Angeles Dodgers righthander used to great effect this past season. Its also the pitch whose results prompted this tweet from Petriello:
I combined some pitch factors to try to see who might throw a pitch that is similar to that of an ace, & the funny thing was, I was *already* into Tyler Mahle, Yusei Kikuchi, & Framber Valdez. Now I'm paying more attention to Jonathan Hernández.— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) March 1, 2021
Hernandez’s sinker is number on on the “closest to Dustin May” comp list. As Petriello notes, the average velocity, active spin, movement and vertical release point for Hernandez with his sinker is almost identical to May — and if you read the post-game write-ups I did last year, you know that when he appeared in a game, Jonathan Hernandez almost always had the hardest thrown pitch for a Texas Rangers pitcher.
My initial thought when seeing Petriello’s tweet was that Hernandez’s slider was the pitch that was featured in the article, because (as Petriello notes) Hernandez has gotten swings and misses on almost half of the sliders he’s thrown over the past two seasons. The power sinker doesn’t get a ton of swings-and-misses, but it does set up the offspeed pitches extremely well.
Hernandez ended 2020 with a 2.90 ERA in 31 IP, with a couple of shaky outings in his final two appearances, when he gave up a home run, walked 3 and struck out just 1 batter while facing 12 hitters over those two games, bumping him up from the 2.51 he had heading into the final series of the year. Hernandez’s stuff has never been an issue — both in the minors and in the majors the issue has been his consistency of command. When his command is on, he’s as dominant a reliever as you’ll find. When it is off, he’s way too hittable.
It remains to be seen what exact role Hernandez will have in 2021 — he could be an eighth inning guy, he could be a multi-inning fireman, he could be the closer. Whatever role it is, he’s someone Chris Woodward will be leaning heavily on late in games.