On August 1st of this 12 months, the Rays swung a take care of the Los Angeles Dodgers which did not generate very many headlines. Tampa Bay acquired 28-year previous lefty reliever Garrett Cleavinger in change for 19-year previous outfielder German Tapia.
Cleavinger was hanging out on the Dodgers Triple-A roster on the time which made 2022 his eighth straight season pitching within the minors. He had just a few cups of espresso in MLB for each Philadelphia and Los Angeles in recent times, and was really traded from the previous to the latter in a 3-team deal involving the Rays.
The rationale that Cleavinger was obtainable in all probability needed to do with the Dodgers managing a 40-man roster crunch, and needing to create area for his or her commerce deadline additions. That state of affairs paired with Cleavinger’s inconsistent leads to Los Angeles led to him changing into the odd man out when push got here to shove.
When Garrett was acquired, the Rays optioned him to AAA Durham as they’d a reasonably crowded bullpen of their very own on the time. Cleavinger instantly impressed.
He fired 9 innings with the Bulls which included 17 punch-outs and simply 1 earned run allowed. It did not take lengthy for the Tampa Bay entrance workplace to present him a shot with the large league membership, and he has really pitched even higher since that promotion.
As of Friday, September twenty third, Cleavinger owns a 1.93 ERA and an absurd 0.75 FIP in his 14 frames since becoming a member of the squad. 18 strikeouts and simply 1 stroll allowed in his time with the Rays up to now is a gaudy ratio, let’s check out how he is doing it.
What has modified in Tampa Bay?
Maybe surprisingly, there really hasn’t been a complete lot of change in Cleavinger’s repertoire. The shapes of his pitches from him are all just like the pitches he threw with the Dodgers, and the utilization patterns of these pitches hasn’t modified a complete lot both.
What has modified for Cleavinger although is his assault plan. We have seen many new Tampa Bay pitchers succeed by attacking the zone extra typically, and Cleavinger is the most recent instance.
The league common first-pitch strike price in baseball this season is 61.3%. Earlier than becoming a member of Tampa Bay, Cleavinger had amassed 23 whole innings in his massive league profession and recorded a first-pitch strike price of 55.4%, a determine properly beneath the league common. In his 14 innings with Tampa Bay although, he has recorded a 64.1% first-pitch strike price, a sizeable enchancment.
Cleavinger’s stroll price has additionally improved dramatically, as he is posted a miniscule 2.0% mark as a Ray in comparison with his profession 13.4% price.
At the side of the uptick in strike throwing for Cleavinger, batters are additionally chasing extra pitches outdoors of the zone. At first blush, it may not make a lot sense that these two stats are coinciding—how does extra strikes result in extra chases?
The reply to that query is essentially captured by these 4 phrases: Cleavinger has wonderful stuff.
Cleavinger’s Influence Arsenal
The Rays have a sophisticated methodology in the case of scouting and buying pitchers, and the standard of Cleavinger’s arsenal checks all of the packing containers. Beginning along with his fastball, the obvious pitch trait is his velocity.
Cleavinger is averaging 96.1 mph on his fastball this season (83rd percentile) and has topped out at 98.8mph. Whereas velocity is certainly necessary, we all know within the trendy recreation that it is just a bit to the fastball effectiveness puzzle. One of the best fastballs have extra going of their favor than simply velocity, and Cleavinger is not any exception to that.
The chart beneath exhibits the common vertical motion plotted towards the common launch top of all MLB pitcher fastballs this 12 months (minimal 25 thrown):
If you concentrate on the bodily mechanics of throwing a fastball, the pitchers who come over-the-top probably the most are additionally going to be the pitchers with the very best launch factors. These excessive releases will result in higher backspin on the baseball, which is how good vertical motion (“experience” or “carry”) is produced.
Cleavinger lands on the peripheries of this plot due to how he is ready to produce robust vertical motion from the low arm slot he possesses. That paired with the above-average velocity on the pitch creates a very distinctive providing with a excessive vertical angle of strategy, which batters have up to now had actual problem dealing with.
Along with a 4 seam with outlier traits, what if I advised you Cleavinger additionally has a special fastball that’s simply as distinctive if no more?
That pitch can be his sinker, which Cleavinger is not utilizing a complete lot in the mean time, however is certainly value speaking about. Garrett throws his sinker above 95 mph on common as properly, and the pitch will get really elite motion within the horizontal path to his arm-side from him. These two traits are a uncommon mixture in the case of sinkers throughout the league.
You possibly can clearly see the pitch barreling in on the fingers of Yordan Alvarez right here, and he could not do something however swing proper by means of it:
Two actually robust fastballs are the muse of a particular repertoire for the 28-year previous, however Cleavinger’s slider is the actual put-away weapon.
His slider is at present his most used pitch, and for good motive. Batters are solely hitting .156 with a .216 wOBA towards it in 2022. Cleavinger throws his slider at a reasonably agency 82.8 mph and generates nice downward motion with the pitch.
Pete Fairbanks is baseball’s king of slider drop, however Cleavinger shouldn’t be far behind him. Each pitchers’ sliders rank within the prime 5 in vertical motion in comparison with sliders at related speeds. The dropping motion of this pitch paired with the carry of his fastball creates almost good mirroring motion between the spin of the 2 pitches.
One pitcher who possesses Este many outlier pitch shapes are extraordinarily laborious to seek out in immediately’s recreation. The Rays haven’t solely discovered one in Cleavinger, however have helped him harness that elite arsenal, which has result in his emergence from him as an influence reliever.