I was relatively shocked when it was announced that the Mariners acquired Arquimedes Caminero from the Pirates for a PTBNL. Not shocked like, dropped my phone, screaming in the streets. I've seen some things in my time. Tweets don't really get to me. But, you know, I was relatively shocked. Arquimedes Caminero, for everything he's been this year, is one of the flame-yist of the flame arms in the MLB. His average fastball velocity sits comfortably within the Top 5 of the entire league. Anytime you're acquiring a top-end tool, it's usually costly. Unless the tool is something like how many pieces of bubblegum you can chew at once. That's cheap talent, kids.
Anyway, when it came down that Caminero was coming to the M's, I was relatively ecstatic both on this site and on various social media platforms. It just made absolutely no sense to me that Jerry was able to acquire this sort of talent for essentially nothing. Baseball fans far and wide promptly pointed me towards Caminero's mostly poor numbers for the year, to which I mostly thought, well, about something else. Bullpen arms are essentially the most volatile commodity in the game. However, let's look at Caminero before he made the switch to the Best Coast.
Prior to his switch to the M's, Arquimedes threw just over 40 innings this year in which in managed a K/9 of 7 and a BB/9 near 5. This is really the one thing you can't do as a flame arm. You have to let your pitches breath. Or, more simply, you just gotta throw them over the plate. Part of the knock on Caminero, and why he became expendable to the Pirates, was because he lost command of his cutter. He was leaving it over the plate, it was getting knocked around, but also, it was backing him into a corner that his pure velocity couldn't escape. When you have a cutter that averages 92, a split at 91, and a fastball at 98, you just gotta throw strikes. There's another tweak I've noticed in the new Caminero, however.
Notice the arm slot of that pitch from earlier in the year? It's much more three-quarter than over the top. When he's at his best, Caminero is using the same, relatively noon-ish arm-slot with a free and easy delivery not unlike Edwin Diaz. Above, and for much of his year in Pittsburgh, his release point seems off to me. Frankly, it almost looks like his wrist is rolling over across his body as he throws. That's gonna take some movement off the cutter, flatten the vertical break. It can also play hell with a splitter. Here's where you want to see Caminero releasing a pitch:
Now, Caminero has only thrown eight innings for the Mariners, so the data isn't extensive. But what he's done is get his control back. He's yet to walk a batter. That will, I'm sure, change before the season ends, but it's a symptom of a change. Not only is his command better, but he's actually using his fastball more. This to me is indicative of him finding his release point again. What's more is that his fastball velocity has gained almost a full tick, which leads me to another reason to believe Caminero's success here is not short-lived. When you have two flame arms in one bullpen, your mentality changes a bit as a pitcher. You know you can just absolutely let it rip every night when Edwin Diaz is your insurance policy. When you have a fastball that can go north of three digits, use your elite tool as often as possible. Caminero has done just that, throwing his fastball 3/4 of the time since his move to the M's. I have to think this is a conscious change. His swinging strike rate has gone up, marginally, with his command, and his K/9 is also up, in turn.
It's hard to say whether Caminero can keep the release point, the upped velocity, and the command (he's in the zone almost 30% more often in his 7 M's appearances). However, an elite tool is just that. The more he can get himself into situations where he can use 100 MPH gas, the better that Edwin Diaz, and the M's are for it.