Toronto Blue Jays News

Blue Jays have upside in risk-free Floyd, whose curveball is key

kmatheson12
Apr 23, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Gavin Floyd (39) throws a pitch during the ninth inning in a game against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre. The Toronto Blue Jays won 9-3. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 23, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Gavin Floyd (39) throws a pitch during the ninth inning in a game against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre. The Toronto Blue Jays won 9-3. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /
facebooktwitterreddit

The Toronto Blue Jays added another minor-league deal to their bullpen picture on Thursday, reuniting with right-hander Gavin Floyd.

Minor-league signings are, within the context of MLB payrolls, a free trial. Floyd fits the model of what teams look for in these situations, too, as he offers legitimate upside — however uncertain — at a position of need.

Floyd pitched in 28 games for the Blue Jays in 2016 after signing a $1 million guaranteed deal, posting a 4.06 ERA with some encouraging peripherals. Just as the three seasons prior, however, injuries cut his year short.

The buzz surrounding Floyd entering 2016 — outside of the short-lived competition with Aaron Sanchez — came from a very brief stint with Cleveland in 2015 where the right-hander looked sharp over a handful of innings at the end of the season.

His 31 innings from 2016 are not nearly enough of a sample size to draw statistical conclusions from, but other measurements of Floyd’s game do offer some initial reason to believe that he still holds the potential to be a valuable bullpen asset.

Velocity is the usual suspect with starters who convert to the bullpen, and Floyd is no different. PITCHf/x data shows that Floyd’s two-seam and four-seam fastballs both jumped one mile-per-hour, and with a full spring to prepare as a reliever, that number could creep even higher.

Floyd’s most important offering might be his curveball, though, which has been a strong two-strike offering for him through the years. Nearly half of his strikeouts have come using the pitch.

In 2016, Floyd threw that curveball on 33.9% of his pitches, nearly double his career average of 18.7%. Granted, nearly all of his career was spent as a starter — and a good one — but this further shows that Floyd is a different pitcher coming out of the bullpen than he was before.

Here is how opposing hitters have fared against Floyd’s curveball in recent seasons:

  • 2016:  .149 AVG   –   .415 OPS
  • 2015:  .081 AVG   –   .333 OPS
  • 2014:  .118 AVG   –   .349 OPS
  • 2013:  .208 AVG   –   .634 OPS
  • 2012:  .191 AVG   –   .566 OPS
  • 2011:  .164 AVG   –   .490 OPS
  • 2010:  .151 AVG   –   .399 OPS

Floyd’s arm slot is also important to monitor as a change in roles and velocities can also alter the delivery, or vice versa.

As this data from Brooks Baseball shows, Floyd was releasing the ball a few inches higher in 2016 than he had from 2013 to 2015, the three seasons that were also cut short.

This higher release point aligns more closely with Floyd’s 2008 to 2012 seasons, where he was a consistent and valuable starter for the White Sox averaging 3.1 fWAR annually. Furthermore, Floyd also located his pitches lower in the zone with more consistency than he has in his career last season.

Floyd’s fastball stayed down and his curveball was finishing consistently out of the zone, which is good news if hitters are chasing.

It appears they were, as opposing batters swung at 36.5% of pitches outside the zone from Floyd (career average: 29.0%). Those same hitters made contact outside of the zone just 47.4% of the time, a much better number than Floyd’s career average of 60.4%.

Related Story: Mexican WBC pitching staff provides nervous intrigue for Blue Jays fans

Put together, this list of signs could be little more than a convenient string of coincidence. Such is the nature of analyzing a pitcher who’s thrown just 123.0 innings in four years and battled significant injuries.

They do, however, point in a common direction to suggest that Floyd does have the potential to revitalize his career as a reliever if he is able to stay on the mound.

facebooktwitterreddit