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Edwin Diaz Is Having A Historically Dominant Season

How was this guy ever bad? It wasn't that long ago that the general belief among baseball fans was that the Mets got fleeced by the Mariners in the deal that sent Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to New York. Cano was suspended for PEDs, and Edwin Diaz couldn't lock down a save. Not only did he have trouble closing games, but he also couldn't keep the ball in the park. His 2.3 HR per 9 innings in 2019 was truly awful and a sign of a pitcher who had lost it.

Well, what's lost has now been found.

Edwin Diaz is dominating in ways we rarely see. The dude has become a lethal weapon this season. He has faced 151 batters this season. He has struck out 77 of them. That's a strikeout rate of 51%. The home run problem that plagued him in 2019 has subsided over the last several seasons. Diaz gave up a staggering 15 homers in 2019. He's given up eight over the last three years. His resurgence is a reflection of why pitch data is so important. Undeniably, Edwin Diaz was a tremendous disappointment in his first three years in New York. However, the advanced numbers always showed that the elite reliever who saved 57 games for the Mariners still existed in some form. During his disastrous 2019 season, Diaz was in the 89th percentile or above in xwOBA, xERA, xBA, K%, and whiff%. His biggest issue was that when hitters made contact, they made hard contact. He was in the 2nd percentile in hard-hit rate in 2019. He's in the 67th percentile now. His fastball spin rate and movement on his slider have been almost identical year in and year out since coming to New York. Is it possible that Edwin Diaz was simply a victim of the juiced baseball in 2019? I'll let you decide, but the answer is yes.

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What makes Diaz such a nightmare to face is that his fastball, which tops out at 102 MPH, isn't his primary pitch. Facing a pitcher with a triple-digit fastball is difficult enough, but when that same pitcher can put that 90+ MPH slider anywhere he wants, barreling up anything becomes almost impossible. And while I wouldn't exactly describe Diaz as "crafty" (that moniker is usually reserved for guys who like to pitch for contact), it seems like Diaz consistently mixes things up regarding his pitch sequencing. He'll start you with a fastball and finish with a slider, or he'll work backwards and start with something off speed. 

Closing out games is tough, and closing out games for a team with World Series aspirations is even tougher. I know how the world of baseball works. If Diaz blows one big save late in the season or causes the Mets a playoff game, people will act like this ordeal was for naught. But the truth is the Mets find themselves in a position to compete for the pennant largely due to what Diaz has been able to accomplish this season. We may see some regression. No one can predict the future, but I don't see it happening. To get to any pitcher, you have to put the ball in play, and 51% of the batters Edwin Diaz has faced this year haven't even been able to do that. He's on some kind of roll.