Ryan Pressly Pulls the String

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Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports activities

You all understand how playoff aid pitchers work nowadays. A starter comes out, maybe sooner than he would within the common season, after which the parade begins. A 23-year-old who throws 99 with a mind-bending slider. A former starter who pops 100 with ease. A artful lefty is subsequent, a humiliation to his friends due to a mere 97-mph radar gun studying. Then it’s time for the large cheese, the bullpen anchor; he throws 100 as effectively, solely with a secondary pitch that will get him convicted of witchcraft in an earlier period.

That’s simply the way in which baseball has gone in recent times. Pitcher coaching is best than ever and velocity misses bats, so the development is inexorable. In 2014, the common fastball thrown by a reliever within the playoffs checked in at 94.1 mph. In 2022, it hit 95.9 mph. Within the not-so-distant future, it’s going to certainly prime 96. In the event you can construct your entire bullpen out of fireballers, why not do it?

It feels unusual to name Ryan Pressly a junkballer. He sits 94-95 mph with a backspinning four-seamer. He threw a pitch 98 mph this season. He’s lived up close to 100 at varied factors in his 11-year main league profession. However in fashionable baseball, he’s downright quaint, a four-pitch reliever who doesn’t depend on gamebreaking velocity.

Mix his unconventional strategies with the truth that he’s a aid pitcher, and Pressly drew the ire of some Astros followers this 12 months. He posted his worst ERA since 2017 (a still-solid 3.58) and seemed worse down the stretch, notably when you’re solely that ERA; three blowup video games led to a 4.76 mark after the commerce deadline. Everybody thinks their very own workforce’s bullpen is unhealthy, it’s only a truth of life, however would possibly Pressly be Houston’s undoing come playoff time?

Proper, yeah, no. Pressly confronted six Minnesota batters within the workforce’s four-game ALDS victory. He retired all six, 5 by strikeout. You simply can’t do significantly better than that. Within the Astros’ final three playoff runs, he’s thrown 22.2 innings throughout 21 video games and allowed a solitary earned run. That was in 2021, and he obtained the save anyway. Looks as if the previous man nonetheless has it.

Judging relievers by their success is all the time going to be futile. Pressly is the nearer for a workforce that has gone to 2 straight World Collection, and even then, he’s barely cracked 20 innings throughout three years of labor. The samples are essentially tiny. A single unhealthy recreation – or just not having a foul recreation – might be the distinction between an awesome line and a poor one. However I assumed Pressly’s recreation plan in opposition to the Twins did a superb job illustrating why he’s so lastingly nice regardless of an atypical pitch combine.

Earlier than we get to a pile of GIFs, let me level out one essential factor: Pressly won’t throw notably exhausting within the context of in the present day’s recreation, however all of his pitches are nice. His fastball will get extra journey than you’d count on and has just about no east/west motion. His bullet slider is available in at 90 mph and has a little bit wiggle in it. His curveball? It drops off the face of the earth with nasty two-plane break. Even his changeup is nice; it mirrors his slider velo-wise however fades greater than a foot in the wrong way.

Our pitch fashions agree with my subjective evaluation. Stuff+ offers the fastball, slider, curve, and changeup grades of 127, 179, 156, and 134 respectively. 100 is common, simply so we’re clear. Per that mannequin, he has the third-best fastball on the workforce behind Bryan Abreu and Ryne Stanek, the most effective slider, the most effective curveball, and the most effective changeup. The PitchingBot mannequin is on a distinct scale, but it surely agrees with the overall magnitude. It thinks Pressly has the third-best fastball, fifth-best slider, second-best curveball, and third-best changeup on a workforce stuffed with spectacular pitches.

As Matt Trueblood identified earlier this month, the Twins have a novel two-strike strategy: don’t change something. They’ve the bottom in-zone swing price with two strikes, hit for energy once they join, and usually deal with it like simply one other likelihood to place one thing in play reasonably than an entirely totally different rely. They led the majors in referred to as strikeouts this 12 months by a giant margin. The hole between them and the second-place Reds is as massive because the hole between the Reds and the Twelfth-place Cardinals. That they had the very best in-zone whiff price once they swung; they take massive hacks the place many groups shorten up.

That team-wide tendency signifies that a normal pitching strategy won’t fare effectively in opposition to the Twins. In the event you’re bouncing breaking balls hoping for a chase or ripping four-seamers above the zone, you’re liable to get a sequence of takes. And in case your counter is to throw some fastballs within the zone and hope they take, that’s dangerous too; they’re swinging aggressively once they provide. However Pressly has the right instruments to counter that. He can command all 4 of his pitches for strikes. He did simply that:

That cluster of secondaries on the backside of the zone is ludicrous. It’s completely designed to counter Minnesota’s tendencies. It’s typically accepted knowledge that leaving a gradual pitch within the zone with two strikes is dangerous. The hitter will likely be defending the zone, so he’ll virtually definitely be swinging. He’ll most likely be making an attempt to place one thing into play. A gradual pitch within the zone is liable to get blooped someplace. Even worse, perhaps the hitter is trying breaking ball and hoping to foul off a fastball that he will get fooled on; that may result in some loud contact in opposition to your in-zone 80 mph providing.

Pressly is aware of that, and he doesn’t normally pitch this fashion. Solely 1 / 4 of his two-strike pitches had been in-zone breaking balls this 12 months. The identical is true for his profession as an entire. He throws lower than half of his two-strike pitches within the strike zone. Towards the Twins, he deserted all of that and tailored to what they had been giving him.

That location chart really undersells Pressly’s calculated aggression. Right here’s his 0-2 pitch to Royce Lewis from final night time:

That post-pitch crawl isn’t the latest dance craze sweeping the nation; he misplaced his footing and couldn’t full the pitch. That location clearly wasn’t a part of his plan; typically, you simply slip. He took some time making an attempt to re-find the zone after that mishap. Listed here are the following two pitches of the sequence:

Simply take a look at that physique language after the 2-2 fastball he yanked vast. “Dangit, hand,” he appears to be telling himself. “Throw strikes.” So naturally, he regrouped and had simply the suitable weight on his 3-2 curveball:

Return up and check out the situation chart from earlier on this article. These three balls – all as a result of he slipped off the mound – are the one two-strike pitches he threw exterior of the strike zone. Perhaps he was planning on bouncing that first pitch anyway. And loads of these two strike counts had been of the 3-2 selection, which argues for in-zone pitches no matter opposition. However the recreation plan appeared clear, and it labored to perfection.

Take a look at this sequence from Pressly’s first save of the sequence. Jorge Polanco managed to foul off a tricky two-strike curve, so Pressly got here again with a nastier and decrease one, however nonetheless saved it within the zone:

The Twins had been wholly unprepared for this plan of assault. How might it’s another method? They did issues a technique all 12 months and rolled to the playoffs, then waited out the Blue Jays (28.9% two-strike zone price) within the Wild Card spherical. Pressly merely had all of the solutions for the questions the Twins had been trying to pose.

I don’t assume that we’ll see this strategy in opposition to the Rangers subsequent week. They appear far more like a median workforce once they attain two strikes; they shorten up, swing pretty typically within the strike zone, and have been notably deadly in opposition to in-zone flexible stuff with two strikes. They had been 30 runs above common in opposition to such pitches, behind solely the mighty Braves. The Twins, then again, had been 36 runs beneath common. Hitters aren’t a monolithic group; deliver the identical plan of assault in opposition to a distinct group of opponents, and also you would possibly run into hassle rapidly.

That’s a part of what makes Pressly so nice. He has the instruments to adapt to his opposition. It’s not a matter of utilizing his third-best pitch to assault their weak spot, both; all of his pitches are nice, and he can throw his breaking balls for strikes if crucial. The Twins had been a tailored matchup for his distinctive ability set. The Rangers will likely be a very totally different problem, however I wouldn’t wager in opposition to him being up for it. In any case, he has an extended historical past of determining the suitable instruments for the job and making use of them successfully. He would possibly simply begin a brand new development whereas he’s at it, too:



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