IF the Toronto Blue Jays had the ability to turn pitchers around, then claiming Zack Godley could prove to be a shrewd move
The Toronto Blue Jays are in desperate need of filling out a rotation, both for this year and for the future. Sure, 2019 is lost, but they hardly seem to have something resembling a consistent rotation. If you look ahead to next year and beyond, it gets even more bleak. So, it should come as no surprise that they claimed Zack Godley off of waivers. The 29 year old is under team control through 2023. He’s exactly the kind of guy this team would look for: team control and potential.
The issue with Godley is that he is in the midst of a year that is somewhat forgettable. His 3-5 record and 6.39 ERA are sure to get some groans from Blue Jays fans. The more vocal may even use this move as more fuel for the management effigy burning. That would be a tad misguided. Godley is coming off two seasons where he was worth 3.4 and 2.5 fWAR respectively while totaling 57 starts. He won 15 games last season.
Usually, we tend to say “If he can turn things around, he could be a good pick up”. And, that’s a fair comment, but if we look at it a different way, we might wonder if the responsibility can totally be placed on the player. We have been hearing for a few years now that the Blue Jays are putting a lot of effort (and money) into their sports science/performance/development. Could this mean that they can find what happened with Godley and help him turn things around?
Historically, the Toronto Blue Jays have had a mixed bag of results in turning pitchers around. Guys like Ricky Romero, Jesse Litsch and Dustin McGowan come to mind. These were all pitchers who flirted with talent for a while and then seemed to have fizzled out. Of course, the current front office cannot be blamed for that, if any front office can really be blamed. Most recently, the mystery of Aaron Sanchez befuddled Toronto. They could not seem to get him ‘right’. He did have his share of injuries, but that doesn’t explain 2019. He was terrible in a Blue Jays uniform. In his first start in Houston, he dominated with a changed approach. Throwing more curveballs allowed him to be successful. Granted, it is one start, but it makes you wonder why Toronto didn’t try this approach.
On the flip side of things, the club had success with Marco Estrada. He was a reliever in Milwaukee and came to Toronto, started games and was a rather good starter. He got better. Most recently, Ken Giles seems to have turned things around after struggling in Houston. So, it is too difficult to say definitively if Toronto can “fix” pitchers, or not, but it makes you wonder if Godley can rebound.
Looking at Fangraphs, we see that he’s actually given up fewer homers this year than in the previous two, but that is also because he has pitched about half as many innings. So, it isn’t as good as it sounds and coming to the AL East is going to be interesting in that regard. His walk rate has stayed roughly the same, but his strike out rate has dropped quite a bit. His ground ball rate has dropped 12% in two years while his fly ball rate has increased 9%. We’re also seeing more hard contact off him this season.
Looking at his Pitch Type, he’s thrown more fastball/curveball and moving away from his cutter, which he uses 9% less than he did two season ago. We see a dip in the velocity of his fastball (87 mph this year), which means less separation from his change, which is basically holding steady at an average of 83 mph. To put his 2019 into a bit more perspective, here is where he ranks in Statcast measurements:
Fastball Velo: 9th percentile
Fastball Spin: 35th percentile
Curve Spin: 10th percentile
K%: 13th percentile
Exit Velocity: 33rd percentile
Hard Hit%: 59th percentile
xwOBA: 6th percentile
xBA: 11th percentile
xSLG: 11th percentile
Lastly, the following two visuals show Godley ‘catching more of the plate’ in 2019 than he used to. L- Horizontal Movement, R- Vertical Movement via Brooks Baseball
Given that I am not a pitching coach and I have not watched Godley no where near enough over the last 2.5 seasons, I am in no position to offer up the answer to “fixing” Zack Godley. However, the fact that he has currently put up -0.1 fWAR and his ZiPS 3 Year Projection shows 2, 2.1, 2.1 fWAR over the next 3 seasons, one has to believe that there is an answer to be found.
Now it is on the Toronto Blue Jays to do their homework and see if they can, in fact, turn a pitcher around. If they can, claiming Godley will not only look like a smart move, but it will go a long way to helping them build a rotation for the next few seasons.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.