Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
It can be hard when watching meaningless baseball to not react strongly to a good or bad performance. Despite the outcome of the game meaning nothing and the fact that the players involved in that meaningless game are working on things, stifling fandom and not overreacting one way or the other is not natural.
That takes us to Edwin Diaz and what went down on Wednesday in Port St. Lucie.
Diaz, fresh off a disastrous 2019 season, made his spring training debut and the results of his one inning mirrored the innings he turned in on many occasions last season.
Featuring a fastball that reached as high as 99 mph and a slider that ranged from 89 to 92 mph, Diaz gave up two runs (on one booming run-scoring double and an RBI double that was yanked down the third-base line) on three hits while walking none and striking out one.
After the game, Diaz said he felt a little "anxious" due to it being his first appearance of the year, adding that he felt good and that he wasn't too worried about his fastball location.
Still, Diaz noted that he expects good overall results this spring -- adding a wrinkle to the usual "spring training results don't matter" cliche.
"Spring training is for working on things, but it's also the results," Diaz said. "I care about the results a lot, so I go out there and try to get the best results possible and I expect my results to be good this spring training."
When you examine the ruins of Diaz' 2019 campaign (5.59 ERA, 4.51 FIP, 1.37 WHIP, 15.4 K/9), there's a lot to dissect. But of the many things that are evident when you look under the hood, these four are among the most notable:
- Diaz still has elite stuff, as evidenced by his strikeout rate.
- His location was terrible last season, as he allowed hitters to barrel up his pitches 10.1 percent of the time (bottom 8 percent of the league) after allowing a barrel percentage in 2018 of 3.8 (top 6 percent of the league).
- While Diaz' fastball was a problem in 2019, his slider was an absolute mess, as batters had a .622 slugging percentage against it after slugging .234 against it in 2018.
- The above added up to a hard hit rate allowed of 45.3 percent, which was in the bottom two percent of the league.
In order for Diaz to return to dominance in 2020, he's going to have to rediscover the slider that helped him dominate in 2018 and is his only secondary offering.
That takes us back to Wednesday's appearance...
Keeping that slider down (and getting good movement on it) will be huge for Diaz in 2020 as he looks to rebound.
During his appearance on Wednesday, Diaz threw nine sliders.
The first slider he threw was down but caught a bit too much plate, resulting in a clean single to right field by Michael Brantley.
Seven of the eight other sliders Diaz threw were either at the knees or below, with the other higher up in the zone but on the inner half, generating a swinging strike.
The most impressive part of Diaz' outing on Wednesday was an eight-pitch stretch that began with the end of Kyle Tucker's at-bat (99 mph fastball that was fouled off, 92 mph slider down and in for swinging strike three) and ended with the double he gave up to Dustin Garneau off a fastball that wasn't in enough. During that eight-pitch sequence, Diaz generated four swinging strikes on his slider.
It's clear that Diaz still has work to do when it comes to his command, but the early returns -- especially when it came to his slider -- were promising.
Is it less than ideal that Diaz gave up two runs in his first appearance since a terrible 2019 season? Sure.
But the fact that Diaz allowed those runs should be no more concerning than it would've been uplifting had he turned in a clean inning.
Diaz can help make or break the Mets in 2020, and he'll be one of the players under the microscope in spring training. And if you were using that microscope on Wednesday, it was easy to see a pitcher going in the right direction.