You know who’s been really cool this year? Camilo Doval. That’s right. I went there. The San Francisco Giants actually had a cool player on the team this year, and it happened to be their closer. This week, Camilo Doval was named the NL Reliever of the Month for September, repeating that honor from 2021.
Among his many achievements, summarized here —
He threw a 104 mph cutter.
Doval's 104.0 mph pitch is the fastest by a Giant in the Statcast era. Doval's previous high was 102.9 mph on August 8.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) September 24, 2022
According to my quick Twitter search, this wasn’t the first time Doval had hit that mark, but it is the first time he’s done it in the big leagues:
Giants prospect Camilo Doval topped out at 104.5 mph on Tuesday pic.twitter.com/AJ0JJ1ICo3— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) July 29, 2021
I don’t know about you all, but I think it is very cool when a hard throwing closer throws the ball hard to close out a game. The Giants’ struggles this year have been multitudinous, and as much as the defense has let down the pitching (particularly the bullpen), the bullpen’s lack of stuff has hurt them just as much. Mistakes have been crushed, except in Doval’s case, and extra especially last month.
But remember when I said he did this last September, too? Just like the 2021 season was for the Giants, Doval was even better: 14.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 6 games finished (3 of them saves), 20 strikeouts, 7 hits allowed, and 3 walks. He had a 1.01 FIP. He ended last year on a high note and more or less carried that over to this year, except for July, where he had a 3.72 ERA in 9.2 IP. Getting that sinker into shape really served as a turning point for him, where he just went from raw talent to pitcher-y.
His 20% improvement by ERA+ year over year vaulted him into one of the best seasons by a Giants closer in the Oracle Park era, since Brian hit 217 back in 2010:
The youngest on that list by far and with the liveliest arm. Strikeouts are still the coin of the realm when it comes to being an effective major league pitcher in the 21st century, and the Giants are still scrambling to setup their staff with some of that currency, but in Doval they’ve found a keeper, or a potential trade chip, or simply a premium “look” out of the ‘pen with few limitations on how he can be deployed. When the name of the game is efficiency over talent, that’s optimization, baby!
He should be considered a success story from the farm system and the Giants’ new player development. The development of that sinker... hmm... turned around isn’t quite right... how about... launched him into the starfield. No longer just a high velocity bullpen arm. If we consider the “arrival” of his sinker to be a game against the Cubs on 7/28, that sets the pre-sinker cutoff at 7/24 (his last appearance prior to).
From 4/8-7/24, he had a 2.88 ERA / 3.38 FIP split and a Win Probably Added (WPA) of .370 in 41 games (40.2 IP). In 27 games since (27 IP), it’s a 2.00 ERA / 2.37 FIP split and 1.478 WPA. He even improved a bit versus lefties, his most glaring weakness, usually: Overall this season, lefties have hit .261/.371./396. In this new sinker world of Doval’s, over the last 27 games, lefties are still doing better against him, but not as good — .255/.333/.340. These 27 games since include his appearance the other night, in October, so after the award month, but I’m just trying to make a point: Doval has been not just very good, he has been outstanding.
He’s been the most successful part of this season and to top it all off, he’s very cool. I have no doubt jinxed him for this final series, where he’ll still have to face a hungry lineup of mashing Padres, but that’s the risk baseball players take when they perform so well: a blogger might write about them — and favorably!