Friday, June 2, 2017

Contemplating Ryan Pressly

There were few givens for the Twins bullpen coming into spring training. Ryan Pressly was one.

He threw hard, he had an outstanding curve, he had elevated his strikeouts per nine innings sharply and lowered his walk rate, he had climbed the bullpen heirarchy to become Paul Molitor's second most trusted reliever.

Today Pressly's dragging his 9.50 ERA back to Triple A.

Parker Hageman of Twins Daily on Thursday posted this analysis of Pressly's failure. Quick summary: Too many fastballs early in counts and when behind, not enough use of his best pitch, the curveball.

I noted in my previous post that there are positive markers in Pressly's stat line. Specifically, this year he has struck out 11.5 men per nine innings, 3.5 above his previous career high. But his walk rate is also higher, and nobody's going to succeed throwing 2.5 homers every nine innings.

I have referred often to what I call "the Greg McMichael rule" of pitching: If you get outs, they'll find a role for you. Pressly arguably found himself in a role -- late inning shutdown reliever -- that he wasn't ready for. He entered this season with a 3.55 career ERA and a 3.70 FIP. His 2016 season, his "breakthrough" year, was a 3.70 ERA and 3.74 FIP.

Those are not the results one sees from eighth-inning guys in quality bullpens. They are middle-relief numbers, if that. Pressly acceded to the eighth-inning role last year because nobody else was doing any better, not because he had truly earned it.

And now he has to re-earn a lesser role.

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