Edwin Diaz Has Turned That Long-Awaited Corner
Command of his pitches has the fireballing right-hander on an exciting trajectory
Following his initial troubles in New York, it’s clear Edwin Diaz, Mets pitching coaches Jeremy Hefner, Jeremy Accardo, and now Ricky Meinhold came together on a course of action that would put the uber-talented right-hander in the best position to succeed.
With the level of pedigree Diaz has, a renewed focus on pitching as opposed to simply throwing the ball extremely hard and with a ton of spin was the only way to curtail the command issues that plagued him through 2019.
“Back when I came over from Seattle, my ball, I felt, was moving from side-to-side [too much] and that’s not what I wanted,” Diaz said on Sunday through team interpreter Alan Suriel. “But with all the work that we’ve been doing from last year and this year, I feel like that’s where we have it now, where it’s moving in a horizontal fashion and that’s the way we want to continue to keep going.”
Diaz’s ability to harness the unreal horizontal movement on his four-seamer — essentially keeping it from drifting too far into the strike zone, limiting barrels and such — should keep him out of trouble and far from the issues that plagued him in 2019.
The average distance of horizontal break on Diaz’s four-seamer has actually gone up as he’s progressed (12.4 inches in 2019, 14.4 inches in 2020, 15.3 inches in 2021, but the location of those pitches has become more refined and, in turn, made the pitch that much more effective.
When you throw a four-seam that moves as a two-seam does, finding the perfect balance of wow and whoa is an ongoing battle.
In Diaz’s first season in Queens, his fastball was quite literally all over the zone, showing little or no consistency with its placement. And you certainly can’t have two-thirds of your pitches tailing into hitters’ kitchens in such a fashion and expect solid results.
All images via Baseball Savant.
Diaz’s .428 slugging percentage against his four-seamer that season (compared .250 SLG in his elite 2018 campaign) was likely all the evidence player and team needed to know that something had to change.
Last season, the consistency Diaz had been looking for in the location of his fastball was there. Its landing spot wasn’t what you’d call ideal, but it was effective, nonetheless (.231/.324/.385 slash against; wOBA for middle slash).
In 2021, you’ll see Diaz’s four-seam has virtually lived on the paint over a small sample size this season. Oh, baby, that’s gonna play.
Not only that, when Diaz throws his slider, it leaves opposing hitters so baffled that he can literally put it right down the middle of the plate and still put guys away with it consistently (33.3% whiff rate in 2021; 57 percent in 2020!).
It appears Diaz has indeed turned the corner that all parties involved have been clamoring for him to eclipse since arriving in Flushing. We love to see it.
“I’m able to command my pitches now,” Diaz said on Sunday. “That’s really what it is, the execution of my pitches. I’m able to command that fastball, I’m able to command my slider, and I really think that’s what it is. Just the consistency in the pitches is what’s given me success so far.”
Let’s hope that trend continues.
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