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Jake McGee: The One-Pitch Pitcher

One of the newest members of the San Francisco Giants, lefty reliever Jake McGee, is coming off one of his best years in the major leagues throwing one pitch: a fastball. Seemingly by magic, McGee twirled a fastball 97% of the time he threw in 2020 on the way to a 2.66 ERA, 0.836 WHIP, and 11 strikeouts for every walk. I will be taking an in-depth look into McGee’s success and failure over his career, which might give better insight as to how he can continue to perform and how a major league reliever can succeed with only one pitch.

McGee was drafted in 2004 by the Tampa Bay Rays and made his major league debut with them in 2010. After his first full season in 2011, McGee posted extremely strong numbers in 2012, 2014, and 2015 with an ERA+ (it will become clear why I use ERA+) of 148 and a K/BB of 5.02 within those four seasons. After the 2015 campaign, McGee was traded along with Germán Márquez to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Corey Dickerson and Kevin Padlo.

McGee immediately regressed in Colorado, as his ERA+ went from 163 to 103 (ERA+ adjusts for ballparks, which is particularly useful at Coors Field) and his K/BB sunk from 6 to 2.38 in the transition from the Rays to the Rockies (2015-2016). Of course, some of this decline is attributed to the difficult conditions of Colorado, but there is also additional evidence to show that McGee’s style of pitching contributed to his declined performance. Following 2016, McGee remained a strong-yet-aging reliever and was ultimately released by the Rockies in July of 2020.

Four days later, McGee signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers and proceeded to outperform even his 27-year-old self with an incredible season. McGee finished in the 99th percentile in K%, 96th in BB%, 95th in xERA, and 95th in xwOBA. So what exactly was the cause of this change and what did McGee do to get there? Read the rest of this entry »


Pitch Count Efficiency is Undervalued

During Game 6 of the World Series, Kevin Cash infamously replaced his cruising starting pitcher, Blake Snell, with reliever Nick Anderson. Anderson would give up the lead before registering an out, and the Los Angeles Dodgers won the Series for the first time in 32 years.

A heavily criticized decision by many, both in the moment and in hindsight, the move is representative of the new direction many clubs have been heading towards. This is calculated and analytics-heavy decision-making on reliever usage that has caused both a major shift in the value of relievers and a steady increase in pitchers used in games.

The consistent incline of pitchers used per game notably paired with the decline of average pitches and innings thrown by starters begs the question: how should pitch count factor into removing pitchers from games? If starters are removed for the fact that they are facing the top of the order for the third time rather than because they are fatigued or have seen a decline in their outing performance, is it important to pass on hittable pitches in order to drive pitch count up? Alternatively, is there value in being a pitcher who can record outs quickly if by the time Mookie Betts comes to the plate in the 6th inning, the threat of impending doom will chase an ace at 73 pitches out of the game? Read the rest of this entry »