Pressing On Was Key for Pressly
Image courtesy of © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY SportsThrough his first seven appearances, and 8 1/3 innings pitched, Pressly owns a sparkling 0.00 ERA along with a 2.15 FIP and 0.96 WHIP. He’s striking out batters at a 7.6 K/9 clip while issuing free passes at a career best 2.2 BB/9 rate. After allowing 1.0 HR/9 and 1.5 HR/9 each of the past two seasons, he’s yet to give up a longball in 2018.
Keeping the ball in the yard was really Pressly’s bugaboo in 2017, and it inflated things to the point of the surrounding numbers looking equally as gaudy. His chase rates and swinging strike percentages are virtually the same year-over-year, and his velocity has actually been slightly down this season (likely due to the cold temperatures). His curveball is arguably his best pitch and he’s using it just as often, while trusting his slider slightly more for new pitching coach Garvin Alston. There’s just really not much that jumps off the page in regards to process changes that would point to the massive step forward.
Again though, we can look back to the longball. In 2017, 18.5% of the fly balls allowed by Pressly left the yard. That’s over double his 9.3% career mark, and was 12th worst in baseball among 155 qualified relievers. With no homers allowed thus far in 2018, that percentage is obviously zero. It’s also a direct result of the Ryan keeping his hard hit rate in check. After allowing 41.4% of contact to be batted at least 95 mph in 2017, he’s cut that number virtually in half (21.7%). Medium contact is generally going to produce balls in play that give fielders a chance to make a play, and his 69.6% mark is 8th best in the game.
When designing a blueprint for a reliever, you’d be hard pressed to argue against the makeup including velocity, an ability to produce weak contact, and the opportunity to keep the ball in the yard. For Paul Molitor and the Twins, Ryan Pressly is currently checking off all of those boxes at a very high level. His hammer curveball combined with an upper 90’s heater has always been a problem for big league hitters. Executing those pitches now with the results bearing fruit has put Pressly into the proper light of a very good setup man.
As Derek Falvey and Thad Levine went out and revamped the Minnesota pen this winter, Addison Reed and Fernando Rodney had back end ability written all over them. Zach Duke was somewhat of a wildcard, but in returning from Tommy John surgery in 2017, showed that he can be a very nice piece for a bullpen when right. By bringing in those reinforcements, the emergence of Pressly has given the Twins a whole new weapon. Not relegated to any certain role in relief, Molitor can dispatch the native Texan at any point during a game. Handling high-leverage is something that Pressly’s repertoire and results play into, and he’s an option plenty of clubs would find themselves envious of.
It’s silly to extrapolate Pressly’s current production and project that he won’t allow a single home run all of 2018. Obviously there’s also going to come a point in which some level of regression hits as speed bumps are uncovered. At the end of the day though, the Minnesota reliever has turned in roughly 13% of his 2017 output, and he’s doing so as one of the best bullpen options in the big leagues.
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