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The Value of Prospects

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Cody Stashak Was More than Just a Command Wizard in 2019

An unusual event occurred on Sept. 8. No, it wasn’t that the Vikings won their season opener. No, it wasn’t the fact that it was National Grandparent’s Day. And no, it wasn’t that I listened to the Shrek soundtrack while driving home that day. On Sept. 8, Cody Stashak walked his first (and so far, only) batter of the season in MLB. It was a full count and even looking at the video, the pitch seemed like a pretty solid strikeout pitch, Yu Chang just had a good take.
Image courtesy of © Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY Sports
Walks are by no means unique in any game as pitchers sometimes lose command in a given plate appearance or hitters have some especially good takes. But for Stashak, that walk is the only one he allowed in the 25 innings he pitched at the major league level this year. This gave him a BB/9 on the year of 0.36 and a BB% that was an astonishing 1% in 2019. For comparison, Josh Tomlin and Chris Martin both held the lowest BB% by a qualified reliever in 2019 with a 2.3% mark.

Right around when he was called up, Stashak talked about what his focus was for pitching in MLB:



A straight-to-the-point answer, yes, but sometimes flippancy is the most effective way at communicating a game plan and for Stashak, his game plan was executed to perfection.

Before I move on, just know that I am about to bastardize the concept of sample size and draw from evidence that is not completely whole given that Stashak has just 25 innings to his name at the major league level. But, there is no statistician that can currently reach me and strangle me to death before I do this so I will continue on until forced otherwise.

“Just throw strikes” is a bit of a buzz phrase in baseball mostly yelled by angry middle-aged men who would crap themselves if they ever got buzzed by an average heater. Never mind the fact that every pitcher, ever, knows that he needs to throw strikes or that not throwing strikes may actually be the superior plan. No, throwing strikes to some is the greatest thing since sliced bread, or Radiohead’s “Kid A”.

Throwing strikes seems to be almost an addiction for Stashak, something he just can’t help himself from doing. He led the league in rate of pitches in the strike zone (minimum 20 innings) at 52.3%. A rookie throwing strikes at such a rate is almost unheard of and Stashak’s zone% in 2019 would put him 13th among all rookie relievers with at least 20 IP since 2010. Is that too contrived? Well, Stashak’s zone% is also seventh best among all rookie pitchers with at least 20 IP over the last three years.

Stashak has been more than just a strike-thrower, though. If you’re looking for swing-and-miss ability. Stashak's 17.1% swinging strike rate ranked 15th among all pitchers with at least 20 IP in 2019 and was the highest of any Twin. Somewhat predictably, his odds of getting a swing on a pitch outside of the zone (O-Swing %) was the 12th highest in MLB among pitchers with at least 20 IP (38.6% was oddly enough right behind Randy Dobnak who had a 39.2% rate).

What makes Stashak so deadly is that he has been formed in the mold of a modern reliever in that he matches a high fastball with a slider low and away to right-handed hitters. Stashak’s fastball has two less inches of drop compared to league average fastballs and his slider has four more inches of horizontal break compared to league average sliders.



Less drop on his fastball gives it that “rising” effect that some hitters talk about and makes it a great pitch up in the zone while the extra horizontal slider movement makes his breaker especially effective when thrown outside to righties.


Stashak was a strike-throwing machine who could get his stuff by hitters with ease even when not throwing pitches in the zone and without elite velocity (average fastball velo was 91.8 MPH). He understands what he has to do in order to get hitters out with his stuff and he has the precise ability to execute that plan. There aren’t many players who I can give a comp with as most relievers these days tend to hold a higher velocity. But as long as Stashak continues throwing fastballs up and sliders low, he should be able to get hitters out at the major league level. While he was not much of a prospect, Stashak has solidified himself in a major league bullpen and will look to be an important piece for the Twins going forward.

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5 Comments

Poignant, intelligent, and funny! Love it.

But the reality is, Stashak was part of an unexpected movement that none of us saw coming. Did the GO?

We can all extrapolate the failures of the entire team in the final series adnaseum if we want to: injury, rust, suspension, experience, etc. I don't want to dwell on that because that's not the point here.

Stashak is the point.

Stashak showed, in limited experience, what he is capable of. In truth, Littell could have been included in this same article. Littell came up earlier but both situations are similar. You simply can't honestly take the body of work either showed during the regular season and just dismiss potential based on what happened in a single series.

Stashak, being young, and I'm including Littell, still have to earn their way. But in no way should we dismiss what we saw of them building the pen for 2020.
    • TL and rdehring like this
I hope he has great success for the Twins. I will be very happy if you are able to write something similar next year at this time
    • rdehring likes this
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Parker Hageman
Oct 18 2019 09:32 AM

One of the interesting things about Stashak is how he releases the ball on his slider -- his thumb is way more involved in the process. Typically you see pitchers tuck their thumb either on the side or under for the slider but Stashak's thumb is behind it. 

 

 

The only other pitcher I could come up with who does this is Dan Straily.

 

 

I don't have video evidence of this but it appears he does this with his fastball too. It must create some unique spin direction or a different look than what most hitters are used to. 

    • Sconnie, Tom Froemming and wabene like this
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operation mindcrime
Oct 18 2019 09:44 AM
Unleash the Sleestak!!!!!!!!
He impressed me, but I was never quite sure why
Subtle. But effective without being overpowering. Like Odorizi

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