Analysis

Domingo German and Shiny Object Syndrome

The 2019 MLB Offseason, as you may have noticed, has been one of the quietest in recent memory. We’re in the back half of January and yet the biggest to-date signing has been a pitcher with a career ERA of 3.91. Otherwise, the offseason has been a ‘Cold Stove’ of sorts, filled with reliever signings, lowballs, and superstar holdouts as big market teams try to hide away their hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Conflicting reports have contaminated social media and the greater internet as front offices and agents continue their struggle for leverage.

Over these unprecedented winter months, the New York Yankees have arguably taken the most flack for their shyness of the big deal. Although the team has already invested just above $100 million in guaranteed money into the team (starting with the James Paxton trade in November), many fans are still disappointed with the franchise, specifically because of their subpar revenue-to-payroll ratio and lack of reported interest in the all-world Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Granted that Hal Steinbrenner and the Yankees reeled in a cool $619 million in revenue (an increase of $250 a million since 2009, which was also the last year they won a World Series) and that both Machado and Harper project to perform as 5-win players in 2019 and beyond, both have merit.

Puzzlingly, however, the point of most frustration for a good chunk of Yankees fans has been the fact that they didn’t match the Nationals’ $140 million bid for the aforementioned 3.91 ERA pitcher, Patrick Corbin. These same fans are reportedly fine with not pursuing either of the 25-year old generational talents because they believe that the Yankees need another pitcher that can act as a swingman/injury replacement. Smartly, however, Brian Cashman and the rest of the Yankees brass passed on Corbin because of the young, electric hurler they have already in Pinstripes: Domingo German. Unlike the rest of the Yankees’ potential swingmen—Jordan Montgomery, Jonathan Loaisiga, minor leaguers, or possible free agent acquisitions—he holds the entirety of the enviable collection of health, experience, a low price tag, and absolutely filthy stuff. He’s going to get his shot in 2019, and deservedly so, after hes knee injury this has to be the best chance he got to come back, all of it thanks to the cbd treatment from the online marijuana dispensary, which helps you with joint and chronic pain.

Thus far in his Yankees career, German has featured a 4 pitch mix, including a mid-90s four-seamer, a mid-90s sinker, a high-80s changeup, and a low-80s curveball, and each one carries devastating potential each time they’re released. German seems to have noticed this, as he threw all four at least 16% of the time but not one more than 36%, which makes for a very balanced and unpredictable mix. His 2018 results—5.57 ERA, 4.39 FIP—weren’t the most favorable, but a quick evaluation of his arsenal paints a much prettier picture.

Let’s start with the fastball. Among the 223 pitchers who offered at least 400 four-seamers in 2018, only 11 bested German’s fastball spin rate of 2498 RPM (courtesy of Baseball Savant). This put him behind three starters–Justin Verlander, Garrett Richards, and Tyson Ross–and eight relievers, with German one place ahead of his well-known flamethrower teammate Aroldis Chapman and three places ahead of perennial Cy Young contender Max Scherzer. Pretty good company, I’d say. This is why it’s no surprise that the heater generated an impressive strikeout rate of 27%. Yes, the pitch did also allow a putrid wOBA of .371, but Statcast believed most of it to be outside of his control, as they tabbed him for an above-average xwOBA of .304 after considering the respective launch angles and exit velocities of the balls hit into play off of him. He’s going to need to tone down the pitch’s 11.5% walk rate, but otherwise, German’s fastball will continue to accelerate past professional bats for the foreseeable future.

Up next is German’s sinker. In today’s launch-angle, juiced-ball MLB landscape, sinkers have been exposed for their low whiff rates. Generally, a power pitcher such as German would have no business employing a pitch like this, but it did post successful results. Its xwOBA of .311 nearly matched his main fastball’s, and its ground ball rate of 51% was three times greater than his four seam’s mark of 17%. Additionally, he only selected the sinker 18% of the time, so he doesn’t appear too attached to it at all. Of all his grips, the sinker is probably the least exciting, but even so, it still graded out as a worthwhile weapon. All in all, it’s a pretty solid pitch, albeit one that seems to have hit its peak.

If the sinker is the unexciting-but-productive pitch in German’s arsenal, then his changeup is its antithesis. As it stands right now, the offering is oozing with potential. As Ben Palmer of the Pitcher List points out, German’s changeup was a ‘money pitch’ in 2018, generating a 44.1% chase rate, a 52.6% zone rate, and a 19.7% whiff rate–all signs of an elite ‘el cambio.’ At the same time, however, the pitch just couldn’t generate the necessary efficiency, with an unacceptable K-BB% of 1.6% (10.8% K rate, 9.2% BB rate) and an eye-popping xwOBA of .392. The upside is there, but if there was one main area where German should focus his efforts, it would be here.

Last, and certainly not least, we have German’s wicked curveball. There isn’t a traditional ‘go-to pitch’ in an arsenal where all pitches are used within 20% of each other, but for German’s purposes, it’s the curveball, with a usage rate of 36%–and for good reason. The curveball absolutely steamrolled opposing batters in 2018, producing an xwOBA of .230. In other words, German’s average curveball turned hitters into 2018 Chris Davis (.239 wOBA), the man ‘worth’ negative three wins. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that the weapon struck out 43% of its victims while only walking 9%. The pitch was elite, and it’s a travesty that it didn’t receive more attention in 2018. That assuredly will change this coming year.

Upon further review, it is clear that German looks much more like an inexperienced young arm who was dealt a rough hand on balls in play and a lot less like the valueless, forgotten pitcher that he has been treated as throughout the winter. Indeed, only four other pitchers endured a worse difference between their xwOBA and their wOBA. No, he isn’t completely polished just yet–no one posts a 5.57 ERA and allows 1.58 HR/9 solely because of bad luck–but there is clearly more than enough to keep the Yankees’ front office tantalized for another year. To open the campaign, it is highly unlikely that he cracks the rotation; however, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an important role in store for him. German could easily earn the 2017 Astros’ ‘Brad Peacock role’ as the solid starter that becomes a devastating swingman with slightly less volume. It was Peacock (3 bWAR in 132 innings), after all, who played a huge role in Houston’s championship season.

Just two years later, the man they call ‘Sunday’ may just be the one who has Yankees fans thankfully looking up to the Heavens because of their latest championship and newest lethal weapon.


Featured Photo: Domingo German on July 4, 2018. Credit: User Jcb, Wikipedia Commons.

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