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40 in 40: It’s not Trevor Gott’s fault

It’s not a flashy signing, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good one.

MLB: JUL 14 Brewers at Giants
good lettuce tho
Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s not Trevor Gott’s fault.

It’s not the 30-year-old journeyman righty’s fault that, in an off-season where Mariners fans hoped to keep the good drought-busting times rolling, Gott’s modest ($1.2M) deal stood as the team’s lone foray into the free agent market until the second week of January, while other teams in the division jumped into the market, signing recognizable names to high-dollar contracts. It’s not Trevor Gott’s fault, but it’s also not the fault of frustrated Mariners fans to use him as a stand-in punchline for jokes about the team’s reticence to spend this off-season, leading to jibes on Twitter like the following exchange:

It’s also not Trevor Gott’s fault that his name is basically impossible to mispronounce, and so very easy to spit out in a dismissive tone. You can really punch up that guttural “Gott,” as if to emphasize how very not a household name it is.

Luckily the off-season breaks like a fever the instant a pitcher throws the first pitch of a spring training game. Under the clear and sunny Arizona skies, so far from our current greylocked rainwashed state of affairs, Trevor Gott will have a chance to introduce himself to Mariners fans in the only way that matters: he’ll be able to show what he is, rather than occupying the space of what he isn’t. And while it won’t be enough to offset the worrisome specter of Jacob deGrom taking the mound fifteen minutes away from Peoria in Surprise (surprise! The Rangers are scary!), or José Abreu buttoning up an Astros jersey in Palm Beach, indications are good that Mariners fans will be plenty satisfied with what Gott—the person, not the concept—brings to the squad.

Gott was a savvy pickup for the Giants, who acquired the reliever for cash after Washington—a team notorious for poor pitching development—DFA’d him after the 2018 season. However, after a solid 2019 campaign for San Francisco, Gott failed to impress the Giants in 2020 in a short 12-inning stint, struggling with his command and giving up some particularly tough-to-swallow late game homers, as well as suffering some elbow soreness that had also cut his 2019 season short. He spent 2020 and 2021 at the alternate site and Triple-A before signing on with Milwaukee as a free agent, who eagerly signed him to a major-league deal.

As savvy a pickup Gott was for the Giants, it was an even savvier pickup by the Brewers, who got to reap the rewards of the work the Giants pitching staff had put in with Gott, and who are themselves well-regarded in the industry for their pitching development. Gott had developed a cutter with the Giants; in Milwaukee, they tweaked the pitch, having him throw it more often and locate it both at the top of the zone as well as lower in the zone. He also started throwing the pitch with more spin, creating a sharp, late break that generates whiffs and was his best putaway pitch (24.5%).

Here’s what that pitch looks like at the top of the zone:

When he goes lower with it, lefties see the pitch coming in at their knees and swing over the top of it:

Righties see the pitch sailing away and just give up on it as a ball:

or go after it with little success:

The Giants had also had Gott dump his sinker in order to concentrate on his four-seamer, again instructing him to throw it at the top of the zone. That transition went less easily for Gott, who, as mentioned earlier, served up some unfortunately-timed meatballs on the pitch. But with the Brewers, Gott’s 95-mph fastball again became a weapon after he got comfortable with pitching at the top of the zone. He limited batters to a .170 BA (.162 xBA) and .404 SLG—not great, but his .310 xSLG suggests he got fairly unlucky, and all of it looks pretty great next to his 2020 mark of .795 SLG on the pitch. It’s all about perspective. He also started getting more whiffs on the pitch, although his strikeout numbers remain modest. And while he sat at 95 mph on average, Gott possesses a uniquely quick arm; he showed he could rear back for more at times, like on this absolutely filthy heater to strike out former teammate Mike Yastrzemski. More of this please, Trev:

In order for this move to be declared “savviest,” the Mariners will have to improve upon the improvements already made by two previous teams, both well-respected in pitching development—and also, the Giants already stole the Mariners’ favorite trick of taking a pitcher with a weird approach (Gott’s is that he’s a short king, generously listed at 5’10”) and encouraging them to throw at the top of the zone—I remarked on the Trevor Gott-Paul Sewald similarities in an earlier piece.

Gott is the rare reliever who doesn’t have a slider, although his cutter has some slider-ish characteristics (some might call it a slutter!); his true breaking pitch is a heavy curveball, but Milwaukee had him fade the pitch after it got tattooed in San Francisco. When he did mix it in as a change-of-pace offering, batters whiffed at it 30% of the time, but Gott can have trouble commanding the pitch, so throwing it more often is a risky proposition. Here’s what the curveball looks like when it’s going good; it basically explodes at the plate.

The Brewers also allowed Gott to start throwing his sinker again, which doesn’t induce whiffs but does get ground balls; after getting a paltry 20% ground ball percentage in 2020, Gott returned to form in 2022—44.9%, which happens to be exactly league average.

Since he doesn’t strike a ton of batters out, in addition to keeping batters off base with easy weak-contact outs, limiting free passes, and keeping the ball in the park, there’s one other major thing Trevor Gott needs to achieve, and it’s unfortunately one of the things players have the least amount of control over: health. After stumbling through injuries in his Giants tenure, that problem didn’t go away in Milwaukee; Gott made two trips to the IL in 2022, once with a groin strain that knocked him out for much of June, which, whatever, but that same barky elbow cropped up complaining again in the second week of August, prematurely ending his season. “Elbow” and “strain” are two words you very much do not want to see unless you are making some delicious homemade mac and cheese, so let’s hope Gott has a healthy season, or the jokes aren’t apt to dry up any time soon—and this time, even though it really isn’t Trevor Gott’s fault, it also would be, kind of, in that way where we are all responsible for the ambulatory meat-suits we drag around the planet during our time here. Happy Friday!