The Texas Rangers have been one of the league’s breakout teams this year with a 25-15 record heading into their series with the Atlanta Braves. They’ve been led by one of the league’s best offenses which is headlined by Adolis Garcia. However, they also have one of the league’s best pitchers right now in Nathan Eovaldi, who has pitched 8 or more shutout innings in each of his last three starts. Down below we are going to break down the veteran righty and see what’s led to his breakout.
Pitch #1 - Four seam - 2023 usage rate - 37.6 percent
2023 stats - .190 xBA, .296 xSLG, .233 xwOBA
Average velo - 95.7 MPH - Spin rate - 2,174 RPM - vertical movement - 16.1 inches - horizontal movement - 12.8 inches (4.1 inches above average)
The four-seam fastball is Eovaldi’s bread and butter, and it has been his entire career. It’s not where it once was where it sat a hair under 98 MPH but it’s still extremely effective. However, there is some expected regression with this pitch based on his career metrics. Over the past three seasons he has never posted an xBA below .265, xSLG below .401 and xwOBA beneath .314, Eovaldi is outperforming those numbers this season by an almost unsustainable rate. Additionally, the whiff rate of 24 percent is the highest it has been since 2019 where it was 27.7 percent. He doesn’t throw his four seamer in the zone as much as most starters do as the in-zone percentage is just 53.2 percent, which he pairs with an in-zone whiff rate of 18.9 percent. I expect this pitch to regress, and it might just happen against a dangerous Braves lineup.
Pitch #2 - Split finger - 2023 usage rate - 25.8 percent
2023 stats - .214 xBA, .303 xSLG, .222 xwOBA
Average velo - 88.5 MPH - Spin rate - 1,678 RPM - vertical movement - 33.3 inches - horizontal movement - 13.8 inches
The split finger has been an extremely dangerous pitch for Eovaldi. This season it has posted a chase rate of 43.3 percent, down 3.3 percent from last year’s mark. The chase whiff rate of 61.1 percent this year is actually up 7.2 percent from last season’s tally. From a usage standpoint the pitch percentage on it does tick up slightly against lefties with at 28.1 percent.
Pitch #3 - Cutter - 2023 usage rate - 19.1 percent
2023 stats - .341 xBA, .563 xSLG, .429 xwOBA
Average velo - 91.2 MPH - Spin rate - 2,365 RPM - vertical movement - 22.0 inches - horizontal movement - 0.5 inches
Despite having a lower fly ball and pop-up percentage than his four seamer, this is actually his pitch with the highest launch angle against at 10 degrees. The in-zone rate on it sits slightly behind his four seamer at 52.3 percent, but the edge percentage is 43.6 percent, the third lowest amongst his four most used pitches. Eovaldi relies on this pitch more against left-handed batters with a pitch percentage of 24 percent against them compared to 15.4 percent against righties.
Pitch #4 - Curveball - 2023 usage rate - 13.4 percent
2023 stats - .174 xBA, .205 xSLG, .167 xwOBA
Average velo - 76.8 MPH - Spin rate - 2,031 RPM - vertical movement - 56.5 inches - horizontal movement - 10.2 inches
This pitch is basically a better version of Eovaldi’s splitter in terms of the metrics. The whiff rate is slightly higher at 37.5 percent. The splitter does have better chase and chase whiff rates but that’s about it. The ground ball rate on the curve is 71.4 percent, 23.5 percent higher than last year’s mark. The strikeout percentage on it is also 33.3 percent, 5.2 percent higher than his splitter. When ahead in the count the usage on this pitch surprisingly drops down to 11.9 percent.
Didn’t include the slider which he’s thrown only 32 times.
Key matchup - Matt Olson - Olson has made constant hard contact this season and with an average exit velocity in the 99th percentile but he has an xBA of .201. This is largely in part due to a strikeout percentage in the 5th lowest percentile and whiff rate in the 6th lowest percentile. Eovaldi excels in those categories sitting in the 71st and 73rd percentile respectively. As a result, it’s easy to envision Olson struggling to put the ball in play in this one which might lead to a sluggish night for the offense.