2016 was a tale of two seasons for Mr. Nick Vincent. During the first half of the year, he was pretty good, striking out a bunch of dudes, limiting damage, and serving as a reliable 7th/8th inning guy for Servais out of the Mariners ‘pen. And then... he tweaked his back, suffered through a terrible outing, went on the DL for a month and a half, and was never the same when he returned to action in mid-August.
It's clear that Vincent's ability to pitch effectively after returning from the DL was compromised. He recorded fewer strike outs, allowed significantly more balls to be hit in the air, and surrendered soooo many dingers. So what exactly happened? Well, simply put, it appears as though Vincent lost a significant amount of oomph on his pitches.
|Split||Usage||Velocity (mph)||Whiff/Swing||SLG against||Usage||Velocity (mph)||Whiff/Swing||SLG against|
I imagine many of you read Jeff's piece from last week where he talked about how great Vincent's fourseamer is at generating swings and misses. If you missed it, I'd encourage you to go read it now. That pitch has been Vincent's best weapon throughout his career. His somewhat non-traditional delivery combined with his ability to work up in the zone with that pitch has allowed him to generate lots of whiffs, as demonstrated by his shiny career K/9 of 9.64.
However, as shown in the table above, Vincent lost a whopping 1.3 mph on his fastball after returning from the DL. His pitches still had a similar amount of movement, but batters had a much easier time catching up to them. His o-contact rate jumped from 65.4% to 71.3% after his injury. Batters weren't just putting these balls in play; they were punishing them. Look at that post-injury slugging percentage against his fourseamer. 0.513!!! To make matters worse, it appears as though Vincent may have started pressing, going to his "best" pitch more often, which only exacerbated his struggles.
If Vincent has been able to heal up and recover his velocity over the offseason he should once again be a valuable middle/late-inning reliever for the Mariners. If not... well, there are a lot of other righty arms down in the 'pen who seem like they could be able to step up and contribute in 2017. We'll just have to wait and see how things look in spring training. Only more 20 more days...
Hurry up and get here already, baseball.
And go M's.