Analyzing Blue Jays Closer Roberto Osuna

Roberto Osuna, the closer for the Toronto Blue Jays, is in his third season in the major leagues at the age of 22. In 2015, at the age of 20, he appeared in 68 games, finishing 38 of them; in 2016, he pitched in 72 games, finishing 61 times, and racking up 36 saves. In spite of his youth, he has been a very good pitcher, with a career ERA of 2.66 (ERA+ of 158). In 2016 his ERA was 2.68 (ERA+ of 160), with a 0.932 WHIP and a SO9 of 10.0.

So far in 2017, the Blue Jays have not been in a position to need a closer very often, and Osuna has only pitched 2 innings. In that tiny sample of 29 pitches (prior to last night’s game), he has been less effective, with a 4.50 ERA (108 ERA+) but a 1.000 WHIP.

What he throws. Osuna throws more pitch types than a typical reliever, although two of his five pitches were rarely used in 2016. His common pitches were a four-seam fastball (“FF”), averaging about 96.4 mph and approaching 100 mph at times; a slider (“SL”); and a changeup (“CH”). In 2016 he also occasionally threw a cutter (“FC”), which was intermediate in speed and movement between his slider and fastball, and a two-seam fastball (“FT”), which at about 96.1 mph was slightly slower than his four-seam fastball and had more horizontal movement and slightly less vertical “rise”:

Pitch usage and trends. Osuna’s high-velocity fastball is his main pitch, making up 59.0% of his pitches overall and 79.2% of his pitches when behind in the count. Right-handed batters were also likely to see his slider (29.5% of pitches to RHB), but rarely saw the changeup. Left-handed batters had a more balanced offering, with sliders and changeups making up 16.9% and 11.4% of pitches respectively. Osuna’s two-seam fastball was also mainly used to lefties (11.6% of pitches, compared to 2.4% to righties):

Because Osuna’s outings tended to be short (averaging 15.75 pitches per appearance), there is much game to game variation in his pitch usage percentages. His velocity varied markedly from game to game as well, but his slider in particular showed a trend toward increasing velocity as the season progressed:

So far in 2017, Osuna has only thrown 29 pitches, but his pitch usage looks quite different from 2016. He has yet to throw a changeup, he has used his cutter much more often, and he seems to have switched his preferred fastball type from a four-seam to the two-seamer, with more horizontal movement:

Pitch value. Setting aside his cutter and two-seam fastball, which were used too rarely to judge, Osuna’s changeup was his best pitch based on total bases per 100 pitches, but it was considerably worse than league average in terms of location, based on balls per 100 pitches. He used the pitch very rarely to right-handed batters — just 16 pitches — but none of them were hit, although six were balls. His sliders had a very pronounced platoon split, being excellent against right-handed batters but terrible against lefties (20.2 total bases per 100 pitches; the Y axis is cut off in this charts). His four-seam fastball was much more consistent, being quite a bit better than league average both in terms of total bases and balls per 100 pitches:

Pitch location. Osuna’s slider and changeup both typically ended up just at or just below the bottom of the strike zone, though even when they missed low they were often close enough to draw a swing — his slider 6particular was much more likely than average to draw swinging strikes (26.3 of his sliders to left-handed batters, and 28.0 to righties, were swinging strikes, compared to all pitchers’ average for sliders of 15.1% and 16.5% respectively). In contrast, his four-seam fastball tended to challenge batters more or less in the center to outer third of the strike zone:

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Featured image courtesy of Steve Russell/Toronto Star.