Hey, everyone. You may or may not know by now that one common usage of the BP Annual is to play a little game where you eliminate contextual information and have people try to guess who the player might be. This game has been around mostly in podcast (or in-person) form, but we thought with baseball on hiatus we’d bring it to our electronic pages. Feel free to make your guesses in the comments. We’ll update tomorrow (or later) with correct answers. You can order the Annual and play this game (or just plain enjoy it) in your home, your spouse’s home, or your gazebo here. Shouts to the now defunct Defensive Indifference podcast for introducing me to it.
1. _____ is a glitch in the matrix—a groundball rate that must have been a transcription error, nearly as many walks as strikeouts, home runs on nearly 20 percent of his fly balls, easily exposed platoon issues against left-handed batters, and so on. Yet all that somehow adds up to a boring, slightly-better-than-average DRA? It all smacks of fiction. It’s real life, though, and _____’s particular brand of conflicting extremes works out to a serviceable starter, even if he doesn’t get there in a normal way. Combine his worm-killing ways with the _____’ excellent infield defense, which makes his grounder-based game play up, and he should again outperform his metrics as part of the rotation.
2. In the fifth inning of his May 11 start against the Los Angeles Angels, _____ got a visit from his pitching coach asking if he was hurt. The one-time flamethrower wasn’t even hitting 90 mph anymore, and it’s not like the fastball he’s carried the last few years was much better. From the start of 2017 until that day, _____ allowed a league-high 45 home runs on his fastball. But that start was enough to wean himself off of it, and his higher frequency of secondary pitches made for…pretty much more of the same, except fewer home runs. On its day, _____’s slider is still a swing-and-miss pitch. He grew more comfortable pitching with his curveball and changeup, and worked more on locating his fastball at the edges. The resulting pitcher was league-average in 2019, and a full transformation into the type of junk-baller he started to become might only slightly improve that going forward.
3. Thirty innings is often too small a sample size from which to derive anything meaningful, but in his first 30 frames in the big leagues, _____ told us exactly who he was. No one with as many innings pitched—not Josh Hader, nor Edwin Díaz nor Nick Anderson—struck out more batters per inning. At the same time, only one pitcher with as many innings—José Alvarado—issued walks at a higher rate. That’s _____ to a tee; a chonky, flamethrowing lefty who can strike out any hitter on the planet, but who could also find a way to give a windmill first base. There’s a chance this is as good as it’ll ever get for _____, but if he can improve his command even just a little, we might be looking at the new poster child for Effectively Wild. Fortunately, his first name suggests he should be open to evolving.
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