Andrew Heaney Sucks, Why Did The Dodgers Want Him?
The Los Angeles Dodgers have a pivotal offseason awaiting them this Winter. Corey Seager, Kenley Jansen, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, and Chris Taylor will hit the open market. President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman decided his first move this Winter was going to be handing Andrew Heaney $8.5 million? WTF?
For the life of me, I can’t quite understand how in an offseason as pressure packed like this one (given the number of impending free agents they need to worry about retaining), why additional resources are going to a player that frankly flat out sucks. Look, I know exactly why the Dodgers pulled the trigger but that also doesn’t have to mean the reasoning makes sense.
Heavily analytical based clubs like the Dodgers are obsessed with fastball spin rates. They believe that those spin rates should be a barometer of success that a pitcher should have. If the pitcher does not succeed, those clubs believe that the pitcher simply wasn’t deployed in the way to extenuate all of their talents. I’m not here to tell you whether that’s right or wrong. It’s just the thought process.
I use analytics. They’re a helpful tool. I also believe the tool can also become damaging. Handing $8.5 million to Andrew Heaney fits the latter description. In recent memory, we have seen a lot of the spin rate doctors fail when given an absurd amount of money.
Two great examples come to mind. A year ago, the Red Sox gave Garrett Richards way too much money. Richards’ performance over the last few years indicated he was a below average pitcher. That part didn’t matter because he had high spin rates so there had to be more in the tank, right? WRONG. Richards once again showed in Boston he was awful and Boston quickly declined his team option this offseason.
Another one that comes to mind is Tyler Chatwood. Remember the time that Theo Epstein handed Chatwood $38 million on a three year contract. Chatwood was a below average starter in Colorado with interesting spin rates. It had to be Coors Field’s fault – screamed the jackasses in the analytics community. Turns out Chatwood just stinks and notched a 4.70 ERA with the Cubs.
Richards, Chatwood, Heaney; maybe it’s just time to realize they stink. What does it matter if they record high spin rates if everything they throw gets crushed?
Hey, Heaney did find his way into the 90th percentile for fastball spin rate last year. Heaney even notched a chase rate in the 91st percentile. He did that while notching an ERA of 5.83 and becoming DFA’d by the Yankees after they traded for him at the deadline. All of Heaney’s other periphery numbers ranked in the bottom half of the league. Don’t worry… fastball spin rate. He’s got that.
You have to use your eyeballs with this stuff. I reference this a lot but it’s the best example I have. Zack Wheeler wasn’t always putting up ideal numbers but there was evidence to suggest there was way more in the tank. The fact of the matter is, Heaney’s pure stuff isn’t that special.
The former first round pick out of Oklahoma State is a three pitch guy that features a shaky fastball, change up, and curveball. The change and curve look the same so he’s really a two pitch guy. There is only about 4 MPH difference in the change and curve. The fastball sits at 92 and isn’t good enough to blow quality hitters away anymore.
Heaney relied on the fastball about 60% of the time and for all intents and purposes was crushed. Heaney gave up 17 homers off his fastball alone and hitters hit .271 facing that pitch. I don’t care how much spin it has. If it’s getting hammered what good is it?
Obviously, there is more that goes into it. Pitch sequencing means a lot. The curveball had a 35% whiff rate and theoretically throwing that pitch more frequently should not only help his numbers but make the fastball more successful and less predictable. Pitching is an art. There is a ton that goes into it and the information matters.
However, I just don’t see how a pitcher with a three pitch mix is the reclamation project to take. Nathan Eovaldi would be the epitome of that. Eovaldi hasn’t always been dominate but he throws hard and features a true five pitch mix. Get the smart people in a room and figure out the best way to deploy Nasty Nate. It’s worked.
Baseball is a war of attrition. Hitters are too smart now. The data is undeniable that the more they see a certain arm, the more successful they become the second and really the third time through the order. Heaney doesn’t have the stuff to scare hitters a second and third time with the limited amount of stuff he offers.
In fact, if you go to the Baseball Savant page of Andrew Heaney, the pitcher that he most compares with in terms of movement and velocity is Matt Moore. Yeah, Matt Moore and we know he blows. It’s a miracle that Moore was even on a MLB roster last year. That’s how everyone should feel about Heaney. Instead, this guy somehow got a raise based on egregious performance on the field but the idea that his fastball spins more than it should. Now that’s modern day baseball for you.
Will the Andrew Heaney thing work out? I’ve seen weirder things in baseball but Andrew Friedman deserves all the smoke if this blows up in his face. In an offseason like this one, Friedman made it a priority to go and grab Heaney first. Let’s make sure we remember this moment in time.
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