Every New York Mets fan knows this already, but Edwin Diaz has not been the player the organization thought he would be. The pitcher who made a 2018 All-Star appearance for the Seattle Mariners on the back of an absurd 57 save season is not the pitcher the Mets got in the now infamous trade for Diaz and Robinson Cano.
In the 2019 season, Diaz’s seven blown saves tied him for 7th-most in the MLB. He followed that up with four blown saves in 2020’s shortened season, tied for third-most. His ERA has fallen off a cliff, averaging a 4.41 ERA in two seasons with the Mets.
Diaz has a lot to prove if he wants to keep his role as closer for the Mets. Looking at his performance the past two seasons, there’s one change that he can make to help turn his career in Queens around.
Lack of pitch control has made Mets closer Edwin Diaz a walk machine
The most glaring issue with Edwin Diaz as a closer is his inability to keep walk totals low. It feels like beating a dead horse to mention at this point, but Diaz always ends up walking batters at the worst time. His 11.9 BB% in 2020 was in the bottom 20th percentile of pitchers in the MLB, according to Baseball Savant.
That’s an unacceptable total for a closer and is largely due to a lack of control on his slider. Diaz’s secondary pitch has an incredible Wiff% at 57.0%, the fourth highest percentage amongst all sliders in the 2020 season.
The problems arise when batters don’t swing at his slider.
Plenty of at-bats are ruined by Diaz’s lack of control on his slider. A scatter plot of locations for his slider resembles a Jackson Pollock painting, with splatters all over the chart. You can’t get batters to swing and miss when the pitch has no chance of ever looking hittable.
His slider is insanely effective when he finds his location, but for Diaz, that’s a far harder task than it is for other pitchers. If he can keep it under control, his slider’s ability to fool batters into swinging and missing could make it one of the most threatening pitches in the MLB.
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Without control improvements, Diaz will continue to remain a volatile option as a closer, disappointing Mets fans with blown save opportunities all season long. Hopefully, that won’t be the case in 2021.