Sports News

Edwin Díaz Is Still Not Back Full

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

What is wrong with Edwin Díaz? In one GIF, here's what's wrong with Edwin Díaz:

I don't want to tell him how to stab, because he's Edwin Díaz and I'm a stranger on the Internet. But putting a slider right into Josh Bell's nitro isn't a good way to approach a quality at-bat. Bell put it in well, it wasn't given away, but Díaz put himself in that position and paid the price.

At a superficial level, there is not much uncertainty about what is wrong. During the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Díaz tore his patellar tendon, then missed the entire season recovering from surgery to repair that tendon. He's back on the mound, but he's clearly not the same pitcher he was during his breakout 2022 season.

First, there's his fastball. It averaged 99 miles per hour in 2022. This season, it sits in the 97-98 range, and he has yet to exceed 100 mph on a single pitch. He would go for weeks in 2022 averaging triple digits. Visible change in profile:

Now, Díaz's fastball is still very good despite the low velocity. He has always had a damaging movement profile; His arm length and long stride produce a shallow approach angle that confuses hitters at the top of the zone. Hitters do more damage than usual on contact, but they still swing and lack mass. Let's put it this way: In his career, Díaz has allowed a 71% contact rate against his fastball. This year, it is at 66.7%. From that point of view, things are not so bad.

The problem comes with his slide. That cement mixer to Bell is not an isolated incident. Díaz's transformation from the best closer to some of the world's powers wasn't built on fastballs. It was built on his turning that slide into a surgical instrument. Check out this great map of his 2022 slide locations:

That's almost flawless. He is wearing the bottom corner of the glove that has arrows at 90 mph. This year, to put it mildly, he wasn't doing that:

Commanding that slide down and away made Díaz completely untouchable. He threw 539 pitches in 2022. Opponents hit one of their own for extra bases. In 2021, another strong year, he threw 378 pitches and gave up three times as many. All of those hits were field errors in the batter's count. This year, he has already given up five more base hits, including three homers, to his plate. Only one of the 1,099 pitches he threw from 2020 to 2022 was a home run.

The easiest way to explain what went wrong is with those two heatmaps, but if you're not a visual reader, we can do it with numbers too. In 2022, 23.6% of his sliders ended up in the heart of the plate. That number increased to 32.4% this year. On the other hand, he still misses the spot badly every now and then. He actually lost his good control around the edges of the zone, the area where pitchers always win. He hit the shadow zone — both the edge of the plate and the area outside of it — 43.1% of the time in 2021 and 38.6% of the time in 2022 with sliders. This year, that number dropped to 32.4%.

Things get worse from there. Díaz's slider, like his fastball, is down a few ticks of velocity. Unfortunately, its motion profile didn't survive the deceleration nearly as well as the heater did. His slider now attracts about three inches of vertical break, or lift. It's gone from being half an inch below similar-looking sliders to two inches below them. On a gyro slider like his, getting the ball to fall more is important. You want the method to be as different as possible from the normal fastball situation. Instead, his slider hangs in place. I think this both messes up his command and makes it easier for hitters to get the bat head on the ball.

You can just take that motion argument from me. PitchingBot thinks the slider went from a 77 on a 20-80 scale to a 63. Things+ thinks it went from 165 (normally around 100) to 119. Both models agree that his command has gotten worse, to begin with. You can take a trip online to check out other people's models, and they will all agree. Díaz doesn't shape the tone like he used to. The combination of slower speeds and a more flattering vertical height makes it less dangerous, no two ways about it.

Unfortunately, the specific nature of Díaz's decline doesn't make it easy to fix. His pitches don't work the way he needs them to. To make matters worse, he seems unsure of his command – logically, given the change in tone. Not only is he walking 9.1% of opposing batters, his highest mark (outside of a 25-inning 2020 season) since 2017, but he's doing so despite a plan to avoid walks at all costs.

When Díaz gets behind the field, he simply throws the ball down the middle and hopes for the best. He throws 37.8% of his pitches to the heart of the plate in such situations, the highest mark of his career and among the top 15% of hitters in the entire league. That's the domain of contact-to-contact and leadoff types, not swing-and-miss closers. He hangs his slider up the middle an alarming 41.3% of the time when he's down in the count. He has never even come close to that mark before.

The solution to this sudden malaise is simple and yet difficult: Díaz needs to get healthy again. If he fails to do that, he needs to adjust to jumping at a slower speed and refine his slider grip to get rid of that extra lift he added this year. At the current pitch, pace, and location, he just can't get away with dropping it as a primary option. Maybe that means developing a slower, more sweeping version. Maybe it means going back to working on his fastball, saving sliders for layups. It's very hard to hit an average slider when you're trying to catch up to 98 up in the zone.

Whatever his plan is, Díaz needs to act something, and you know it. He told reporters that he's not confident yet, and I think that's a good way to describe what's going on. He doesn't just order and finish skating like he's used to, it got into his head. That's just a twist, because you need a slider in larger areas, and so on and so forth.

The history of patellar tendon injuries in baseball suggests that Díaz will be fine in time. Former Angels pitcher Garrett Richards tore his hamstring and returned to action within eight months. Zach Eflin retired his in July 2021 and committed to the bullpen in 2022. Matt Strahm had surgery both patellar tendons and jump better than before. There is no clear path back to feeling fully healthy, but the long-term prognosis seems good.

That's good news, but it doesn't do much to help yet. The Mets are listed below .500 despite strong individual performances; their BaseRuns record is 23-23, and they are still very much in the playoff hunt. Their bullpen has been among the best in baseball despite Díaz's struggles; Reed Garrett was at his best and the middle innings team was also very good. Carlos Mendoza indicated that Díaz will take a lower-level job while he returns to form. That seems like a good idea to me. This is not a matter of the manager responding to the struggles of small samples. Díaz is terrible right now. The Trumpets will definitely play at Citi Field again, but their conductor needs to make some adjustments first.

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button