Can Kendall Graveman Maintain His Success Since Being Recalled?
Most people don’t know who Kendall Graveman is, let alone how successful he’s been since being recalled from Triple-A by the Oakland A’s. In truth, he’s been nothing short of amazing and is proving to be a staple in Oakland’s rotation after a rough start to the 2015 season.
Graveman was absolutely terrible in his four starts prior to being demoted.
His numbers show that he was highly ineffective and supported his demotion to Triple-A despite the small sample size.
Graveman recently shared some insight into his game and the effect of spin rate as well as mechanics. Something that stuck out was Graveman talking about being a groundball pitcher and how he’s embraced it since college, saying, “I learned my identity. ‘This is who I am; this is the type of pitcher I am, and I need to pitch to it and perfect it.’”
Some pitchers have great difficulty with accepting the type of pitcher they truly are, but Graveman’s ability to accept it at a young age may help explain his recent success. It’s much easier to create success when you know what skills you need to refine.
Since being recalled to the Majors, Graveman has drastically improved every portion of his stat line -- and more importantly his groundball rate (GB%).
His improved GB% from 43.8% to 49.2% helps explain his exceptional stat line since being recalled.
Despite the small sample size of only four games, Graveman’s above-average walk rate of 8.4% is extremely counterproductive when combined with a below average left-on-base rate of 59.8%.
Of course, given his role as a groundball pitcher, he needs to evidence the ability to keep the ball down and to do so consistently. His heatmap indicates that he did not do so early in the season.
Of course, his groundball rate is up, and that has a lot to do with his placement since returning to the Majors. Here’s a look at his pitch heatmap since being recalled.
The improvement of his command is truly impeccable and helps support his recent success.
According to BaseballSavant, Graveman has made a few changes to his pitch usage since being recalled as well.
Prior to being demoted he was throwing his sinker 59% of the time while almost a quarter of his pitches were cutters. He mixed in his changeup and slider every now and then, but neither were used significantly.
Since being recalled, the only significant change was made to his sinker and four-seam fastball usage. He’s cut back on his sinker about 10% and increased his four-seam to 6.5%. He’s also slightly increased his cutter usage by about 3%, and it looked pretty great in his most recent start against the Mariners.
These improved peripherals are supported by his changed pitch usage and greatly improved command. He seems to have made the necessary adjustments to become a highly-effective groundball pitcher who can put his team in the best position to win each of his starts.
He’s going to continue to induce a lot of ground balls if he maintains his improved command, but let’s hope those groundballs avoid Marcus Semien.