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What's the Deal with Matt Magill?

Spending time with my in-laws by choice. The Minnesota Twins stealing a base. Paul Molitor using Matt Magill out of the Twins bullpen.

These are all things which happen sparingly. But why?

Magill has been excellent for the Twins bullpen since his promotion in April. So who is Matt Magill? What does he throw? Is his success sustainable? If it is, why hasn’t another major league team helped him figure it out?
Image courtesy of © Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Magill was a late selection of the Los Angeles Dodgers (Round 31, pick 15) in the 2008 June Amateur Draft out of Royal HS. Magill’s high school scouting report has pretty typical of a high school pitching prospect:


"Magill has a tall, projectable frame. His fastball sit in the 88-90 mph range, but it’s straight and hittable when left up in the zone. He’ll need to develop sink and movement to succeed with his fastball at higher levels." (Courtesy of Baseball America).

After being drafted, Magill progressed steadily through the Dodgers organization, being groomed as a starter. His minor league success peaked with his 2012 season at AA Chattanooga. That season, he put up a 3.45 ERA in 146+ IP, while striking out 168. Magill made his major league debut with the Dodgers in 2013, with a disastrous six game stretch which produced a 6.51 ERA and a BB/9 of 9.11. Magill bounced around at various levels of the minor leagues in the years following, making brief major league stops with Cincinnati and spending time in the Padres organization. Magill began the 2018 season as a 28-year-old at AAA Rochester, before getting the call to Minnesota in late April.

Magill is off to a strong start as a Twin. Through 23.2 IP (as of Wednesday night) he has produced the following:
Attached Image: MagillChart.png
Magill has a strange set of numbers to examine. He doesn’t fit a particular mold. He’s no longer producing the high strikeout numbers he did as a prospect early in his career. He also has a low ground ball rate of just 36%. Magill is 10th in BB/9 among major league relievers who have thrown at least 20 innings and has the 15th lowest BaBIP of pitchers in MLB. Finally, he has stranded 98.9% of runners on base, a figure tied for the major league lead with recently traded former Royals closer Kelvin Herrera. Magill’s BaBIP and LOB% seem unsustainable, but his SIERA is indicative that he has produced consistently strong performances for the Twins.

SIERA (skill-interactive ERA) is a development from FIP and xFIP which attempts to weight the various reasons pitchers are successful or unsuccessful. Magill’s 2018 SIERA is 3.67, a figure that lands him in between the range of above average (3.75) and great (3.25) according to FanGraphs. So what does Magill do on the mound and how has he established some MLB stability after struggling to do so previously in his career?

Magill has a difficult pitch mix to evaluate, because his major league sample is so small it’s still developing. Magill can throw a four-seam fastball, sinker, cutter, curveball, slider and changeup. He predominantly uses his four-seam, slider, and cutter, with an occasional changeup mixed in. Remember Magill’s big, projectable frame? The move from starter to reliever has allowed him to add a little extra to his fastball, his average velocity when he first reached the majors in 2013 sat between 90-92 mph, in 2018, it has averaged 95 mph.

The final development Magill has made which has contributed to his success, is the development of his cutter. In Magill’s previous stints in the major, he threw his cutter between 6-11% of the time. In the last few months with Minnesota, he has used it roughly 22% of the time. Magill’s cutter has heavy sink and sweep to it. Consider this, between Magill’s fastball (with much more refined control) and his cutter, Magill allowed an opposing wRC+ of 185 in 2013, 285 in 2016, and just 45 in 2018. Magill might be due for some regression in the near future, but why Molitor refuses to spread the work load and ease the burden on Addison Reed, Ryan Pressly, and Trevor Hildenberger is a mystery.

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12 Comments

It's got to be deflating for him.He does everything he's asked to do and pitches well enough in the process to earn more time and perhaps the opportunity to be put in higher leverage spots than he's been pitching in.He seems like he's a perfect guy to bridge the game to get to Pressly or Reed or Duke.I don't get it at all.

    • glunn, Riverbrian, Kelly Vance and 2 others like this

SIERA, like xFIP, is a lead indicator, and his predicts that his 1.14 ERA is artificially low and about to regress.So it is hard to use it to describe his performance (other than ground balls, pop ups, fly balls, walks and strikeouts, which are its components,) but it is better topredict the future.

 

One can do that with his BABIP and LOB% :)M

 

Magill has been a pleasant surprise and, thankfully for the Twins, his results have been better than expected (or predicted); however, sooner than later he will land to earth.

    • glunn likes this

While it is true that Magill is likely to regress, his success is driven by his career low WHIP. I understand that the low BABIP is partly responsible, but Magill is also walking batters at what is effectively a career low as well.

As long as he keeps from giving out free passes he can likely continue to be effective. He has certainly been a pleasant surprise for the Twins so far this season.

    • glunn, Riverbrian and MN_ExPat like this

If Magill keeps snuffing out innings, Molitor will learn to trust him. I too can't see exactly why Magill is so curiously effective. Maybe it's the illusion of a "normal" looking pitcher that throws some slightly different stuff. He does seem to quick-pitch a bit, surprising some batters. He also works at a very quick pace. Magill minimizes the time a batter has to adjust to his stuff by working fast and having a quick delivery. He also attacks the zone relentlessly, further reducing the time batters have to see what he's doing. 

 

It's also possible that Molitor thinks that Magill is a guy that can stop a rally, but if you show him too often, hitters will adjust to his average stuff and start pounding it all over the field. The odd thing is that Magill seems to go three innings without hitters adjusting. Maybe he's better than he looks.

    • glunn, Oldgoat_MN and Minny505 like this

When a pitcher or batter is hot, regardless of their norm or projection, to not use them during that time is a manager's mistake. When the run is over, pay attention, and manage with him differently. But don't ignore it when it is happening.

    • glunn, Twins33, Riverbrian and 6 others like this
Not another guy with a short and inexplicable run of success that'll be given an agonizingly long leash. I thought we were past "the Twins' way."

You use him as much as you can, while he is hot, and still a solid commodity. He might develop into a trade piece, he might need to be around again next year (shades of guys like Matt Guerrier). Or, he may be another Matt Belisle. Wait, he is far from that.

 

Either way, he is a piece of coal that is a temporary diamond. Count yourself blessed that you have him even pitching long relief, while guys like Segers, Mejia, Curtiss, Moya, Busenitz waver around in the minors waiting for their chance, or Tyler Duffey waiting for his return.

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Kelly Vance
Jun 22 2018 10:19 PM

 

It's got to be deflating for him.He does everything he's asked to do and pitches well enough in the process to earn more time and perhaps the opportunity to be put in higher leverage spots than he's been pitching in.He seems like he's a perfect guy to bridge the game to get to Pressly or Reed or Duke.I don't get it at all.

Molly apparently can't see a gift when it is dropped in his lap.

    • 3balls2strikes likes this
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terrydactyls1947
Jun 23 2018 09:38 AM
This might be a case for analytics to shut up for a moment and just observe. Regardless of what all the fancy acronyms are saying about his probability of regression, use the guy while he's still performing at a high level. None of the analytical acronyms can predict when the regression will happen. Heck, it may not happen until 2022. And then the analytic fans can say, "See. I told you it would happen." In the meantime, he might be the best reliever on the Twins.
    • jun and 3balls2strikes like this

You cursed him! He was doing so well and then he goes and has his worst outing of the year yesterday.

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terrydactyls1947
Jun 24 2018 07:25 AM

You cursed him! He was doing so well and then he goes and has his worst outing of the year yesterday.


I am so sorry. I apologize to all TD readers for my comment.
    • Riverbrian likes this
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ashburyjohn
Jun 24 2018 12:02 PM

I am so sorry. I apologize to all TD readers for my comment.

See. I told you it would happen.
    • Riverbrian likes this

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