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What Ought to Johan Oviedo Attempt Subsequent?

Johan Oviedo
Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports activities

Johan Oviedo has a fastball downside. In response to Baseball Savant, the Pittsburgh right-hander’s four-seamer has been price -9.1 runs this season, making it the Twenty sixth-least worthwhile four-seamer and Forty ninth-least worthwhile pitch in all of baseball. That’s what occurs when a pitch has an 18.1% whiff charge and a 47% hard-hit charge. Fortunately, Oviedo’s slider and curveball have been price a mixed 16 runs. That makes his breaking stuff the ninth-most worthwhile in all of baseball.

If you end up screaming at your laptop that Oviedo ought to in all probability throw his curveball and slider extra, guess who agrees with you? Johan Oviedo. Throughout six begins in April, Oviedo threw his breaking balls 63.5% of the time. Just one participant, Hunter Brown, ran the next breaking ball charge in April whereas throwing half as many pitches as Oviedo did. However now that you just’ve stopped screaming at your laptop, I have to inform you that Johan Oviedo disagrees with you too.

Oviedo’s breaking ball proportion has been falling for a lot of the season, and it’s settled within the low 40s. That’s proper, it’s time to scream once more. Why has Oviedo gone again to main along with his worst pitch as a substitute of his finest pitches?

Let’s begin in 2020. That’s when Oviedo acquired his first style of the massive leagues, and that’s when Ben Clemens recognized him as a candidate to comply with within the footsteps of Corbin Burnes, changing a dull four-seamer with a sinker that may really sink, and possibly even a cutter:

Like Burnes, he has a number of plus secondaries and a fastball with plus velocity however less-than-ideal motion. His slider (which Eric Longenhagen gave a future 60) and curveball each did a great job inducing whiffs in a restricted pattern measurement. The slider additionally acquired a great quantity of grounders, making it simply his finest pitch.

His fastball, then again, didn’t flip many heads. It was flat, within the fourth percentile for vertical motion, and suffered from a mixture of low spin charge (2,277 rpm at 94.8 mph) and principally gyroscopic spin. In reality, his 53.1% energetic spin proportion was even decrease than Burnes’ 2019 marketing campaign.

Now we fast-forward to 2022. Oviedo’s pitch combine has not modified. He nonetheless throws that four-seamer, together with an incredible slider, a fairly good curve, and a forgettable changeup. The Cardinals known as him up from Triple-A in June, and after a stable first begin, he ran a 2.66 ERA and three.56 FIP over 13 aid appearances.

Subsequent, the Cardinals shipped Oviedo to Pittsburgh, turning these two good months right into a shiny new(ish) José Quintana. Pittsburgh despatched Oviedo to Triple-A Indianapolis for a month to stretch out as a starter, and he ran a 3.23 ERA and three.47 FIP over seven begins in his September call-up.

Over the offseason, it turned out that someone in Pittsburgh learn, as Oviedo got here into spring coaching with a brand new sinker. “The Pirates have remodeled into Sinker College,” reads the lede, “and Johan Oviedo simply enrolled as the most recent scholar.”

In order that was the plan heading into this season. Oviedo would attempt to earn a rotation spot by working in a sinker to take the stress off his flat four-seamer. However in some unspecified time in the future in mid-March, he tabled the sinker with the intention to work on his four-seamer and changeup. It sounds just like the sinker wasn’t prepared but, and whereas it was anticipated to make an entrance finally, he needed to work on the pitches he already had. “I’m positively going to wish that pitch, particularly once I want a groundball,” he mentioned on the time. “The season is sort of right here and I have to carry out.”

Then spring coaching ended and the season began, and Oviedo was on the market throwing 63.5% breaking balls. Each the slider and the curve added roughly 2.5 mph of velocity. As Michael Ajeto famous on the time, Oviedo main along with his slider wasn’t essentially new. The brand new wrinkle was bumping up his curveball utilization to take the place of his four-seamer and tunneling the curveball off the four-seamer. After throwing his curve roughly 11% of the time over the previous three seasons, he threw it 21.4% of the time in April.

After which, as rapidly because the experiment started, it ended.

Oviedo’s curveball use is again right down to its historic ranges, and his four-seamer overtook his slider as his main pitch a while round midseason. Right here’s how that has turned out:

Johan Oviedo’s 2023 Splits

1st Half 4.75 5.11 4.17 4.67 .323 .333
2nd Half 3.53 3.80 4.68 5.01 .299 .315

Nicely that’s not complicated in any respect. Oviedo has carried out higher throughout the second half, however FIP and xFIP suppose he was higher throughout the first half, and xWOBA doesn’t see that massive a distinction between the 2. Let’s dig slightly deeper:

Johan Oviedo’s Different 2023 Splits

1st Half .300 67.7% 10.5% 88.6 4.6%
2nd Half .238 77.0% 8.9% 87.5 16.2%

Oviedo is strolling extra batters and hanging out fewer, which definitely explains why FIP isn’t satisfied. It’s additionally precisely what you’d count on from a man who’s throwing fewer of the pitches that truly get whiffs. He’s additionally seen a soar in strand charge and a drop in BABIP, indicators {that a} pitcher has been the beneficiary of some luck. However on the similar time, his exit velocity is down, and his popup charge has elevated by far more than sufficient to elucidate the drop in BABIP. Is the four-seamer answerable for his elevated popup charge?

Johan Oviedo’s Popup Price Splits

Half 4-Seamer Slider Curve Sinker Changeup
First Half 3.7 3.9 8.3 5.3 0
Second Half 8.8 19.6 17.6 0 0

SOURCE: Baseball Savant

Probably not. A lot of the popups have come on breaking balls. However right here’s the factor: Oviedo’s four-seamer has carried out considerably higher within the second half. I advised you earlier that it’s been price -9.1 runs this season, however let me break that down. Within the first half, it was price -7.6, and within the second half it’s been price -1.5. What accounts for the distinction? That popup charge helped, as did a rise of roughly two proportion factors in strike charge and whiff charge. Lastly, it doesn’t damage that the four-seamer’s wOBAcon went from 28 factors worse than its xwOBAcon within the first half to 56 factors higher within the second half.

The four-seamer’s different stats are fairly related from the primary half to the second. It has misplaced 1.1 mph, and Stuff+ thinks it went from an 85 to a 79. Even when we are able to’t say for sure that the four-seamer’s enchancment is actual and sustainable, it’s exhausting to fault Oviedo for sticking with it when it’s working.

And that’s the place I’m going to go away you. I’m out of solutions, associates. The issue is that there are such a lot of issues happening. Oviedo has modified a lot that there’s no such factor as a management variable. He began incorporating the sinker in Might however hasn’t used all of it that a lot and has been transferring even additional away from it recently. In reality, he has but to throw a sinker to a lefty this month. He’s additionally de-emphasized his changeup of late, and his launch level has been drifting to the left all season:

Neither his vertical launch level nor his extension have modified a lot, which implies that Oviedo has achieved this new launch level the old school manner: scooching over on the rubber. I’ve highlighted the rubber so it’s simpler to see the distinction. His present launch level is on the left, and his April launch level is on the appropriate:

I don’t know whether or not this has to do with consolation or whether or not it’s a acutely aware try and tamp down an unruly platoon cut up. It has taken place so steadily and for therefore lengthy that a part of me wonders whether or not Oviedo even is aware of it’s occurring.

Regardless of the numerous changes Oviedo has made, possibly there’s a easy clarification for efficiency this season. He was good final yr pitching principally out of the bullpen, however this yr as a starter, his velocity is down a tick, and his outcomes have taken a step again. We’ve definitely heard that story earlier than. However there’s additionally a lot to discover.

Oviedo is 25, and after seven years as knowledgeable, there are nonetheless a number of issues I’d like to see him attempt. He solely spent a month going all-in on his slider-curveball combo, and it appeared to return at a time when he skilled some dangerous batted ball luck. Perhaps it’s price one other shot. He hasn’t come shut to totally committing to the sinker and seeing what occurs when he makes it his main fastball. Thus far, Stuff+ has it at 101, a major step up from the four-seamer at 83. Pairing his breaking balls with a mean fastball can be an enormous improve. And in contrast to Burnes (and roughly each pitcher in baseball), Oviedo has but to attempt including a cutter. Perhaps somebody might educate him a changeup that higher fits his mechanics.

Or Oviedo might cease tinkering along with his repertoire and give attention to his command. He tends to overlook to his arm aspect, which may trigger issues for a pitcher if — simply to select an instance out of skinny air — they occur to throw three consecutive fastballs in towards Ronald Acuña Jr.’s ribs. If all he did was work out the best way to spot his fastball and changeup higher, he’d be a very new pitcher.

Perhaps Oviedo will head again for an additional semester at Sinker College this offseason, or possibly he’ll attempt one thing else totally. No matter it’s, it is perhaps time for him to select a path and keep on with it. It’s awfully exhausting to succeed whereas making such massive mid-season changes. Regardless, I’ll be excited to see which Oviedo we see in 2024.



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