clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Can Drew Pomeranz be this year’s Derek Holland?

New, 11 comments

Can Pomeranz go from being quite bad to quite good?

Chicago White Sox v San Francisco Giants Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Last season, the Giants signed Derek Holland to a minor league contract. The lefty was coming off a terrible year. His ERA was north of 6.00, his strikeout rate plummeted, and his walk rate soared. He wound up leading the Giants in innings pitched, and had his best season in years.

This season, the Giants have signed Drew Pomeranz to a one year contract. The lefty is coming off a terrible year. His ERA was north of 6.00, his strikeout rate plummeted, and his walk rate soared. Is there any hope that Pomeranz can bounce back like Holland did?

Earlier this week, I looked at Reyes Moronta and Nick Vincent, two pitchers whom Statcast’s expected metrics love. Both Moronta and Vincent excelled at limiting hard contact in 2018, each finishing in the top six percent for exit velocity. Drew Pomeranz does, uh, not continue this trend.

Hitters lit up Pomeranz in 2018. They barreled one out of every ten balls they put in play against him. His xwOBA against was .366, in the bottom two percent of the league. If Moronta made everybody look like Kelby Tomlinson, Pomeranz made everyone look like, well, no one who plays for the Giants, that’s for sure. A .366 xwOBA is what Anthony Rizzo and Juan Soto did last year.

All told, he had arguably his worst season as a big leaguer, and he got bounced from Boston’s rotation in August. In 74 innings, he was worth -0.5 bWAR and pitched to a 5.43 FIP. That’s a worse FIP than Matt Moore had last year.

Speaking of which, Statcast lists Matt Moore as Pomeranz’s third-most similar comp based on velocity and movement. That doesn’t seem good.

The hope for the Giants is that Pomeranz regains what he had the previous four years, and that 2018 was just an injury-ridden outlier. It’s not an unreasonable hope. Pomeranz suffered a forearm flexor strain on his right arm and bicep tendonitis on his left. Call me crazy, but I’m thinking that having healthy arms is important for pitching well.

The most obvious impact the injuries had on Pomeranz was that it dropped his velocity a tick. Previously, Pomeranz’s fastball sat between 92 and 93 MPH, but last year, he struggled to hit 91 on average for most of the year. The good news is that Pomeranz gradually regained velocity as the year went on.

He managed to hit 94 in September, so I’m willing to believe that his velocity dip was more to do with injuries and less about him about to turn 30 and thus aging like he had chosen the Holy Grail poorly.

Pomeranz, a flyball pitcher, should also be helped by Oracle Park’s cavernous jaws. Pitching in San Francisco helped Holland and Jeff Samardzija rebound after lost seasons. Holland and Samardzija made other adjustments to, so it’s not as simple as hoping the park will make Pomeranz good again, but it should make things easier.

Even if Pomeranz’s velocity is back and he’ll be in a pitcher-friendly environment, I’m not sure that he’s one the Giants’ best five starting pitchers. Andrew Suárez is coming off a better year, and in a vacuum, is more deserving of the roster spot. Suárez, though, has options remaining, and the Giants’ priority is to hold onto as many players as they can, and showcase their tradable players early.

Projection

IP: 90

GS: 12

K: 81

BB: 42

HR: 14

ERA: 4.50

bWAR: 0.2

It’s possibly a little too neat to split the difference between the two Pomeranz’s we’ve seen recently, but I neither think that Pomeranz will be as bad as he was last year nor rebound to where he was in 2016-17.

With as many starters and long relievers as the Giants have, I imagine Pomeranz, Suárez, Chris Stratton, and the like will move between the rotation and the bullpen all season. Limiting innings in this way can keep the pitchers fresher and healthier while keeping the starters from facing the order a third time through without putting too much strain on the bullpen.

There’s also the matter of Pomeranz getting paid by the amount of starts he makes, so the Giants have additional incentive to move him to the bullpen.

Traded?

Yes. Pomeranz won’t be around next year, and it’s not as if the Giants will need him for a playoff push. It’s hard to think of a contender who couldn’t use another starter, so there should be plenty of interest even if he’s pitching like how I project.