You know, there’s so much on my mind at any given point; especially during the baseball season. I keep a running record of interesting things I see players do with notes to circle back to them if they duplicate them. And here we are, the first in-season deep dive as I look at often underappreciated, Drew Rasmussen. This early it’s like drinking from a fire hose, I see Jeffery Springs added a sweeper and separated it from his slider; that’s a big deal, that was the one thing he was missing in his arsenal that could take him to SP1 territory. Matt Chapman adjusted his stance and is now hitting for more power, could be a big season. Graham Ashcraft is doing something interesting, maybe it sticks this time. On and on and on with so much to choose from! But this week, piggybacking on Grey, I revisit Drew Rasmussen, and how he has managed to get even better.
Yes, it’s only been 2 starts. And yes, it’s hard to put too much weight in the data at this point, but something is clearly different and it’s having a positive effect. Allow me to cut to the chase and simply say, Rasmussen made his cutter better. If you remember, towards the end of the season last year I broke down his transformation from reliever to reliable starter with my Drew Rasmussen fantasy post. In summary, the Rays helped him to add more sweep to his slider and taught him a cutter that dives almost straight down. Paired with his high-spin, high-velo fastball up in the zone, you get textbook pitch tunneling. The only thing he was missing to be truly elite was a higher K-rate.
Up to speed? Great. Now that brings us to this year. So first of all, with the growing popularity of the sweeper statcast has taken it upon themselves to reclassify them in their data apart from typical sliders. Drew Rasmussen is exhibit A. The pitch is the same, they are just relabeling it. Which is why you see the slider disappear and the sweeper replace it.
What is a sweeper? A sweeper is the reinvention of the old Slurve pitch from back in the 90s; Slider+curveball. It’s a bit slower and loopier than your average slider and is shaped more like a curveball and usually goes off the table. How is the sweeper different? Most of the “good” sweepers you’ll see from pitchers now, especially those employed by the Rays, possess 2-plane movement that the old slurves never quite mastered. That is, they bend in 2 directions on their way to the plate; both vertically and horizontally. Think Slurve 2.0, okay?
|Season||Pitch||Velo||Drop (in)||Break (in)|
There are some mild differences with his other pitches that probably amount to little more than small sample noise; however, there is a very noticeable change in his cutter which he has gone to as his *new* primary pitch to start the year, overtaking his four-seamer. When you look at the spin data, you see he altered the grip on his cutter. Rasmussen has (possibly) slowed down his cutter another MPH and (without a doubt) increased the drop of it by 6.4 inches. So if it’s a tick slower and dropping another hand in depth, that makes it significantly more effective and potentially for another out pitch, i.e. the Ks we’ve been waiting for.
Through these first couple of starts against subpar teams, he’s getting a 43.3% whiff rate on his cutter compared to 30% last year. Stronger opponents will be a better barometer, but it’s hard to argue with better movement and separation from his fastball. If he can even increase his season-long whiff rate on the cutter to 35% that’s a big deal and could result in raising his 2-year K-rate of around 22% up around the neighborhood of 27% resulting in a K/9 around 9. And with a command artist like himself with BB/9 below 2, that makes for a deadly combination. A lot of attention has been on Springs this spring, but Drew Rasmussen deserves your attention as well and has the makings for a golden SP2 season.
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