We have discussed a lot about new Miami Marlins free agent addition Wei-Yin Chen and his various skills. But as we have done for past Marlins pitchers, we will try to put it all together here from a scouting standpoint using numbers as our proxy for evaluation. I present another edition of Pitch F/X Scouting Reports, this time featuring Wei-Yin Chen! Here we will assess Chen's first four seasons in the majors from 2012 to 2015, all spent with the Baltimore Orioles.
Pitch F/X: The Basics
The pitch classifications are off compared to what is generally described as Chen's repertoire.
It’s simple enough, but it’s a starting point. Chen throws four pitches. Their average speeds are as follows:
- Fastball: 92
- Slider: 83
- Changeup: 83
- Curveball: 73
In a vacuum, none of those speeds seem out of the ordinary. As a whole, the arsenal is unique, in that there’s two instances of nearly 10 miles per hour in separation between speed brackets. There’s a pitch that goes 92, a pitch that goes 83 and breaks armside, a pitch that goes 83 and breaks gloveside, and a pitch that goes 20 mph slower than the fastest offering.
The curve and change are not significantly different than what was described by Brooks Baseball, but the changeup was changed in their algorithm to a splitter. That pitch does seem to act like a changeup, as Chen uses it 15 percent of the time against righties and almost never against left-handers, signaling its reverse platoon usage. For our ease of use, we are going to discuss Chen's repertoire in terms of four-seamer, two-seamer, slider, curve, and change-up.
His fastball is a seemingly uninspiring four-seamer that breaks glove-side and towards right-handers. He also does a good job placing said fastball in on the hands; as we discussed yesterday, it is one of the potential ways that Chen induces pop-ups at a good rate. While he places the fastball inside the strike zone, he likes to go away with the two-seamer, which has more run away from right-handers. He also throws the two-seamer pretty equally against lefties and rigthies, meaning that he at least perceives the fastball as a potential tool against either side. Most of the time, the sinker is a primarily platoon-side weapon.
As mentioned above, Chen throws a changeup against righties that he does not feature against left-handers. He also throws his slider 11 percent of the time and features a curve equally to either side. The curve is his slowest pitch and thus allows him the most ability to vary speeds. Oddly enough, Chen throws a pretty even percentage of all of his pitches throughout all counts. Most pitchers throw their breaking pitches more often in counts in which they are ahead, but his slider usage against lefties only goes down about five percent between ahead and behind counts. This leaves batters really guessing, as sitting directly on the fastball is not as advisable since he is liable to throw the slider or even the changeup while behind.
Pitch F/X: Performance Metrics
You can see the basic issues and advantages with Chen with this chart. On the one hand, his control is strong, though it is not necessarily based on something that most pitchers do. Many pitchers locate their fastball extremely well but lose track of at least one of their "out-pitch" breaking pitches or tertiary offerings. Chen has strong control over each of those pitches, with all of them posting a balls-to-called-strike ratio of less than three-to-one. However, all of them hover around the acceptable 2.0 mark, including his more breaky slider and curveball. On the other hand, when hitters make contact and put the ball in play, it generally gets hit pretty hard. The changeup was the pitch guys hit the lightest, and it was still a rough go for Chen.
This is interesting given the fact that we know Chen has been allowing lighter contact. It seems those pop-up automatic outs are tenuously balancing the hard-hit fly balls that he has been allowing all of these years. This kind of hard contact is definitely concerning when you consider how much extra talent it is taking for Chen to maintain this balance. He is throwing more often inside to righties at dangerous locations and up high in the zone in order to get that rising fastball to induce pops. A loss of a little bit of command and those fastballs can go from enticing and lightly hit to juicy gopher-balls, especially if this ever comes with a loss of velocity.
The good news is that his changeup helps against righties in a major way. It is his lightest-hit pitch along with the one that gets the most grounders. He does not get a great amount of whiffs from it, but his fastballs are pretty platoon-neutral based on these numbers, as is his slider; both pitches have only mildly decreased whiff rates compared to his work against lefties. The changeup, meanwhile, adds another dimension by getting the most ground balls as well, acting to help limit home runs and damage.
Grades are done with the 20-80 scouting scale, with 50 being considered average and each 10 points being a standard deviation from the mean.
Fastball (55): We know the fastball is the primary weapon for Chen's work with the fastball is what gets his pop-ups, but it is also what gets hit hard. However, he does have other pitches that get hit equally as hard and do not have the auto-out pop-up properties, and Chen has maintained a good velocity on his four-seamer, making it still a very useful pitch. It also is one of his go-to out-pitches, as it gets more whiffs than the average starter fastball. It is what he uses most to set up his speed-changing game.
Two-seamer (40): This pitch does not garner a lot of grounders or whiffs, and it get hit almost as hard as the four-seamer. It is a decent change-of-pace pitch at that velocity, as it specifically tails arm-side for Chen, but it does not generate enough sink to be considered good.
Slider (50): The slider is an interesting tool. It does not garner the whiffs of a usual slider, particularly against lefties. However it seems to be effective against both sides of the plate, which is a helpful thing for a left-handed pitcher. He displays good control of the pitch and places it in the zone, but like the four-seamer, when it gets hit, it does get hit hard. These positives and negatives probably even out.
Changeup (55): The changeup is exactly what you need from a guy like Chen, a left-hander in a world of righty hitters. He places it in the zone decently, and it is the least hard-hit pitch in his arsenal. What holds it back is that, like the rest of his game, it still gets touched up a fair amount and it does not induce a whole lot of whiffs, making it harder to get strikeouts.
Curveball (45): On the plus side, the curve lands in the zone, and hitters often lay off of the pitch, leading to more called strikes. On the downside, this isn't a pitch Chen buries in the ground often, and while it does get whiffs, when it lands in the zone, it gets bombed on swings. This pitch is pretty borderline between a 45 and 50.
Overall, Chen's repertoire seems a bit above average, but he utilizes a complete unknown mix of pitches that is homogenously spread throughout all counts to help keep batters off of the track. He keeps them guessing well with his usage style, and that adds a little to all of those pitches.