With the 2022 regular season over, it is that time where we go back and take a look at the players who appeared for the Texas Rangers this past season.
Today, we look at reliever Taylor Hearn.
It was essentially a tale of two seasons for Taylor Hearn in 2022.
Hearn started the year in the rotation and struggled. Hearn made thirteen starts for the Rangers to start the 2022 season and things did not go well. After getting knocked out in the fourth inning at Detroit on June 18, Hearn had a 6.25 ERA in 59 innings over those thirrteen starts.
Hearn didn’t have an official start for the Rangers again in 2022. After bouncing between the majors and AAA for the next six weeks or so, making three appearances in relief (though behind an opener), Hearn returned to the majors at the start of August in a true bullpen role, where he remained the rest of the year.
As a reliever, Hearn put up a 3.51 ERA in 41 innings, along with a very impressive 2.75 FIP. After allowing a .381 wOBA and a .371 xwOBA as a starter, Hearn allowed a .266 wOBA with a .283 xwOBA as a reliever.
My initial reaction is to just say, well, he must struggle his second time through the lineup. Interestingly, though, his first time through the order as a starter, he allowed a .330/.393/.585 slash line — he was actually better his second and third time through the lineup as a starter. As a reliever, on the other hand, his first time through the order he allowed a .189/.254/.299 slash line.
In looking at the differences, Hearn’s slider definitely played up in a relief role last year. Hearn’s slider was 84.0 mph on average when he was a starter, compared to 86.2 mph as a reliever. He allowed a .213 wOBA and a .255 xwOBA against his slider when he was in a relief role, compared to a .370 wOBA and a .359 xwOBA as a starter.
I don’t know why, exactly, his slider was so much better when he was coming out of the bullpen. His fastball was also better — it went from 94.4 mph with a .346 xwOBA as a starter to 95.3 mph with a .287 xwOBA in relief — though it didn’t show the same dramatic improvement that the slider did. Hearn also junked his cutter when going to the bullpen, and used his sinker and changeup much less often. None of those were particularly effective pitches, so using them less probably helped him overall.
Hearn is firmly ensconced as a reliever at this point, and would appear to be a multi-inning guy out of the pen going forward. If he can continue to have the success he had out of the bullpen in 2022, he should be a fixture in the bullpen for the foreseeable future.