DENVER – In 2018, Colorado Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino is in rare form. He’s already pieced together a top 30 season in franchise history by WAR, WPA and a bunch of other accumulative stats. His rate stats show he is on an unheralded pace to have possibly the best season by a relief pitcher in franchise history.
Heading into Tuesday night, Ottavino has accounted for 1.3 fWAR, 1.47 WPA, a 4-2 record with two saves and 15 holds to the tune of a 1.88 ERA over 38.1 innings pitched. In those 36 games, which had a stint on the disabled list sandwiched between, he’s striking out 41.1 percent of the batters he’s faced while holding them to a .150 average and a 0.913 WHIP.
The last four of those games, however, have told a different story. All told, he’s made nine appearances since coming off the disabled list after recovering from an oblique injury in mid-June. His first five appearances went well, but three of his last four, not-so-much. The Rockies’ six-game West Coaster saw the dominant righty deal his three worst performances of the season as judged by WPA.
In San Francisco and Los Angeles, he blew a save and was tagged with his two losses this season in four innings of work where he gave up five earned runs on nine hits. If nothing else speaks to both his dominance this season and his disappointment the last few times out, he hadn’t allowed an inherited run to score in 2018 until last Tuesday in San Francisco.
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Let’s break it down because there are a few things at play here and it is key to note that this is an extremely small sample size. However, it’s worth analyzing because he had allowed 10 hits going into last week … and nine since.
We’ve talked results and, going even further into them, Ottavino had surrendered three hard hit or barreled balls going into that game against the Giants and two since. While that’s noticeable, the one that stands out to me is the lack of weak contact and topped balls.
In fact, the average launch angle in this small stretch has skyrocketed from 2.9° to 14.2°. The reason this stands out is because his best way of getting outs after the strikeout are ground balls. Not only is Ottavino one of the best strikeout pitchers in baseball, he’s one of its best worm-killers.
Why the change? It’s coming as a product of him leaving the ball just slightly more up as of late than he did previously.
But it really hasn’t been that bad.
In his “biggest blow up,” in which he allowed two earned on Thursday, the three hits against him had hit probabilities of 4, 16 and 16 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, he got out of the inning on a groundball that had a hit probability of 27 percent.
Besides that, he’s thrown just slightly more fastballs recently but that could be chalked up to him working backwards usually but switching it up in the division for a different look.
All that and he made one mistake to the now-NL-MVP-candidate Matt Kemp.
As the data suggests, not much as really changed other than results … which can happen when you’re having a historically good season. Regression, unfortunately, just kind of happens. The only part that could be concerning in the long-term is that the rates in which he’s failed the last four times out is more in line with last season, both in terms of usage and result.
What’s the bottom line? At the end of the day, it was one week and it’s nowhere near time to panic about Ottavino.