Alexis Díaz Has a Unicorn Fastball

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Alexis Díaz
Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports activities

It’s not loopy to see somebody make the soar from an amazing reliever to an elite reliever. Yearly, there are a handful of stellar aid seasons that we merely simply didn’t see coming. I used to be a fan of Alexis Díaz after his stellar 2022 debut (1.84 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 32.5 Ok%), however I didn’t count on him to be this dominant, as he’s taken massive steps ahead in roughly each stat. What’s behind it?

Relating to pitching improvement, it’s necessary to be distinctive; you don’t need to appear to be or throw like anyone else. Should you’re going to be elite, you could discover what makes you particular and lean into it. For Díaz, his outlier ability is his means to launch the ball nearer to the plate than anyone on this planet from an unorthodox angle. He doesn’t have overwhelming velocity, but his four-seamer is among the greatest within the sport, and the extension is a large motive for it. It’s as if the ball is being shot at you from somewhat league distance by a softball pitching machine.

Right here’s how Díaz’s launch level compares to different pitchers with comparable extension:

Díaz Comparable Pitchers

SOURCE: Alex Chamberlain Pitch Leaderboard

Focusing first on launch level, you’ll see that not one of the different 4 pitchers on this small cohort will get their arm as little as the Reds nearer. Mix this with top-tier extension and persistently being up within the zone, and you’ve got the reason for the way Díaz’s Vertical Strategy Angle (VAA) is so flat in comparison with these on this checklist. Horizontally talking, solely Jordan Romano is as far towards the third baseline, however Díaz’s low slot arm angle could be very totally different for hitters in comparison with Romano’s. When it comes to spin axis, solely Devin Williams is considerably near Díaz. The opposite three pitchers are extra excessive. From a pitch design perspective, that might be perfect for constructing the proper four-seamer, however as you possibly can see, being totally different is precisely how Díaz has been profitable.

Stepping away from extension as the principle benchmark and pivoting to vertical launch level, it turns into even clearer than Díaz is in a league of his personal. Nick Sandlin, Paul Sewald, and Seth Martinez are the one different overhand pitchers who’ve such a low arm slot, however none of them compete with Díaz’s a hundredth percentile extension. On high of that, all of them throw their fastballs within the low-90s relatively than Díaz’s mid-90s. (Maybe not coincidentally, the perfect comparability for his launch level is his brother Edwin.)

Relating to evaluating pitchers, it’s necessary to put out how the pitcher is exclusive by way of the lens of numbers and measurements. However what’s equally necessary is seeing the sequencing in a dwell at-bat. As a two-pitch pitcher, Díaz isn’t stunning hitters all that a lot; you both get the heater or the slider. However it’s nonetheless necessary to maneuver your two pitches across the zone to set them up, and that’s precisely what I need to present you. I’ll begin with an at-bat towards the reigning NL MVP, Paul Goldschmidt.

Pitch 1 (0-0 depend, 4-seamer)

Pitch 2 (0-1 depend, 4-seamer)

Pitch 3 (0-2 depend, slider)

Pitch 4 (1-2 depend, slider)

Pitch 5 (2-2 depend, slider)

That is what I name carving up a hitter. After beginning with a painted four-seamer inside, Díaz follows up with a heater proper down Broadway. A majority of these whiffs are completely consultant of how particular his fastball is; Díaz has the higher hand towards elite hitters even when he challenges them within the coronary heart of the zone as a result of it’s not a pitch you’re accustomed to seeing.

Now that he’s forward within the depend, Díaz might go even larger with a four-seamer or change speeds with a slider. He opted for 3 consecutive sliders. The primary buckled Goldschmidt, and when you might consider this as a backed-up slider, Díaz routinely will get these kind of takes inside towards righties as a result of the pitch tunnels so effectively along with his four-seamer. After losing the 1–2 providing, the subsequent slider was within the zone, and Goldschmidt had no probability.

Now let’s pivot to an at-bat towards the left-handed hitting Christian Yelich:

Pitch 1 (0-0 depend, 4-seamer)

Pitch 2 (1-0 depend, 4-seamer)

Pitch 3 (1-1 depend, 4-seamer)

Pitch 4 (2-1 depend, slider)

Pitch 5 (2-2 depend, 4-seamer)

Luke Maile might not have been organising on within the interior third, nevertheless it’s clear that’s the place Díaz needed to dwell towards Yelich. He missed two fastballs simply inside to start out the at-bat and on 1–1 however went down the center of the plate in between; Yelich didn’t look comfy on any of these pitches. Then on 2–1, Díaz bought a chase and whiff on a slider under the zone. Getting a hitter to develop when they’re forward within the depend on a breaking ball is just not a simple job, not to mention a hitter with a 76th percentile chase price. With a 2–2 depend, Díaz as soon as once more discovered himself within the driver’s seat and went again to the fastball, fooling Yelich with a scorching four-seamer on the low-inside nook. With a low launch level and very flat VAA, referred to as strikes on this location may be frequent if a pitcher can spot it right here. It’s one motive why Díaz is so efficient towards left-handed hitters.

As we gear up for the second half of the season, the Reds will want Díaz to proceed his dominance in the event that they hope to carry up their playoff probabilities. Persistently profitable shut video games will probably be essential for a workforce counting on a lineup stuffed with rookies. Fortunately for them, he has confirmed he’s effectively outfitted to deal with the ninth and carve up the center of any workforce’s lineup. Should you’re going to wager on anyone to shut video games for you throughout a playoff push, you possibly can’t go incorrect a Díaz brother.

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