What Does Aaron Slegers Have In Common With Jake Arrieta?
Image courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsWell, among the 562 right-handed pitchers Baseball Savant has data on from 2017, Slegers is one of just three who averaged a release point of at least 6.2 feet vertically and 3.3 feet horizontally. What’s especially surprising is he uses his length more horizontally. Slegers’ vertical release point was 6.33 feet, in the top 13 percent among right-handers, but his horizontal release point was inside the top three percent at 3.34 feet.
It would make sense to guess that former Twin Alex Meyer is in that same class. After all, he’s 6-foot-9. Well it appears Meyer may not make as good use of his height, as his vertical (5.38 feet) and horizontal (2.13 feet) release points both trail Slegers by nearly a foot. So who are those other two pitchers similar to Slegers and how do they accomplish such a unique angle to pitch from?
One of them is 6-foot-6 reliever Taylor Jungmann. He only threw 0.2 innings for the Brewers last season, so there’s not much data to dig into. The other guy, however, is much more interesting. That would be 6'4" free agent Jake Arrieta. How is that possible? He must have freakishly long arms or the ability to get incredible extension, right? No, for Arrieta it’s more about his feet than his arms.
Arrieta accomplishes his release point by throwing from the extreme third base side of the rubber. During his 2015 Cy Young Award season, Rob Arthur over at FiveThirtyEight wrote an excellent piece about that release point evolution. Circling back to Meyer, the main reason why he has a less dramatic release point is the fact he pitches more in the middle, or maybe even slightly toward the first base side of the rubber. I’d guess that’s in an effort to keep more of his pitches in the strike zone.
To give you more of a visual, here are the release point charts from Baseball Savant, starting with Slegers:
Below is Arrieta’s chart. It’s worth noting that there are likely some more inconsistencies because he threw a ton more pitches in the majors than Slegers last year:
And finally, just for further reference here’s Meyer’s chart:
This is inconsistent to the point I would assume Meyer was tinkering around with his release during the year. Maybe something for you fantasy baseball players out there to look into over the winter.
It’s usually pretty great to have something in common with a former Cy Young Award winner, but what does it mean? I’m not sure, but I want to make it clear that I’m not calling Aaron Slegers the next Jake Arrieta. The reason behind avoiding that comparison, however, may be different than you’d think.
The perception seems to be that Slegers is a soft tosser. Yes, he did only average 90.6 mph on his fastballs during his time with the Twins, but his height/extension comes into play. Of 746 pitchers to log data at Baseball Savant in 2017, Slegers had the fourth-highest increase in effective fastball velocity vs. actual fastball velocity at +1.7 mph, meaning the effective velocity on his fastballs was 92.3 mph. Of the 315 players classified as starting pitchers by Baseball Savant, that mark ranks 116th, or inside the top 36.8 percent. Still not elite velocity, and Slegers is never going to be a power pitcher, but there’s nothing to suggest he can’t be successful because he doesn’t throw hard enough.
Slegers actually had a better effective fastball velocity than Arrieta’s 91.75 mph in 2017, but he had much less impressive spin rates. Arrieta averaged 2,308 rpm on all his pitches, Slegers just 1,954 rpm. Lumping all their pitch types together is a very simplified way to look at it, but I’m not a spin rate expert, so I’ll leave it at that for now. Simply put, Arrieta has far superior stuff.
So what am I trying to say here? Aaron Slegers is a lot more interesting a pitcher than I think most people realized, myself included. I’ve seen multiple people both at Twins Daily and elsewhere suggest he’s a DFA candidate. This is a pitcher entering his age 25 season coming off a strong showing in Triple-A.
Nick Nelson made an interesting point in a recent article, noting Slegers’ strong finish and saying “I'm very curious to see if he can pick up where he left off, and what type of untapped potential might lie in him yet, especially if he returns to the Twins and jibes with new pitching coach Garvin Alston.”
Arrieta clearly overhauled his mechanics in order to throw from a slot that Slegers is already able to pitch from naturally. Here's a look at how Arriet's horizontal slot has evolved over the years:
It will be interesting to see if Slegers benefits from some of the changes that have been made to the pitching analysis and instruction staff. Is there someone in the org who can help him get more effective spin and improve the quality of his arsenal?
It seems a lot of the lack of excitement is related to the fact that Slegers wasn’t, and still isn’t, considered a top prospect, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that he barely pitched as an amateur. According to this New York Times article, Slegers grew seven inches between his junior and senior years of high school. That put so much stress on his body he was barely able to pitch his senior year. What if instead he stayed healthy and had a great season?
He ended up going to college at Indiana University and was able to pitch only six total games his freshman and sophomore seasons due to injuries. He was the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year as a junior, but do you think the Twins would’ve been able to get him in the fifth round of the 2013 Draft had there not been so many questions surrounding his ability to stay healthy?
In his first four full seasons as a professional, Slegers has made 23, 25, 25 and 27 starts. How much earlier would he have gone If you could’ve assured teams he was going to be this durable? Of course none of that stuff really matters in the grand scheme of things at this point, but I do imagine if Slegers had been drafted a few rounds higher and put up these exact same numbers people would look at him much differently.
Is Slegers someone the Twins should be making room for in their 2017 rotation? Absolutely not, but this is an intriguing pitcher who has had a successful minor league career and won’t even be arbitration eligible until 2021. That’s a great depth piece to have in case of emergency. Considering the Twins difficulties in developing starting pitchers, this is not somebody you just cast aside.
- Deduno Abides, tarheeltwinsfan, BuxtonBandwagon and 1 other like this