Randy Dobnak, The Underrated Marcus Stroman?
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins DailyRandy Dobnak burst onto the scene in 2019 riding a heavy sinker/slider combo to success in his short debut. I’m just going to say it, Randy Dobnak can be a Marcus Stroman-esque pitcher for the Minnesota Twins. Do you think that’s ridiculous? What’s ridiculous is how similar the two pitcher’s profiles are. Check out the pair’s pitch usage and performance:
Dobnak considers his breaking ball to be a slider despite Statcast categorizing it as a curve. Taking this into consideration, the main difference is Stroman’s consistent use of a cut fastball. Dobnak instead relies on his changeup and four seamer a bit more whereas Stroman rarely uses these pitches. Both pitchers' bread and butter however is their sinker/slider combo. Both use their sinkers around 36% of the time and rely on their breakers for whiffs. Now let’s look at batted-ball profile:
The parity in GB and FB rates are what I find most important. Both pitchers rely on the ground ball in the age of rising strikeouts. Stroman struck out 20.5% of hitters in 2019, while Dobnak struck out 19.5%. Stroman had a walk rate of 7.5%, while Dobnak only walked 4.2% of his opponents. Both pitchers are also exceptional at avoiding barrels, which are determined in part by achieving a launch angle between 26-30 degrees. Both pitchers' sinkers produced launch angles in the negatives in 2019. Dobnak’s 0.32 HR/9 is unrepeatable, but why can’t it plateau around the 0.88 HR/9 Stroman put up in 2019 with such a similar profile?
We saw it at last year’s trade deadline, many people believed Marcus Stroman to be a bona fide ace. The fact of the matter is, 2019 was Stroman’s most valuable season according to Fangraphs WAR and it would have ranked behind Berrios and Odorizzi’s 2019. Comparing Stroman and Dobnak may partially be an argument that Stroman is a bit overrated, but it’s hard to ignore just how much the two pitchers overlap with their strategy and results on the mound in 2019.
The elephant in the room is obvious. Randy Dobnak has just 28.1 innings under his belt at the major league level. He’s also taken an unlikely path to the majors and was never considered the prospect that Stroman was when he was taken 22nd overall in 2012. His 1.59 ERA in 2019 is not going to happen again. Even his 2.90 FIP seems ambitious. The skills Dobnak showed are fairly sticky historically however. While he certainly overperformed, things like walk rate and groundball rate don’t typically just disappear from year to year, especially since they’re both skills he showed all through the minors.
Randy Dobnak is due for regression in 2020, but his performance in 2019 leaves a lot of room for it while still being an impressive pitcher. He gets ground balls at an elite rate and has a slider that induces a healthy amount of swings and misses just as Marcus Stroman does. In fact, you could take the pair's underlying peripherals and they would be nearly indistinguishable. Because of that, I don’t think it’s crazy to say that Randy Dobnak could put together a season that matches up closely with Marcus Stroman. What do you think?
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