Something new and exciting we are doing here at Statsswipe is looking at a random relief pitcher and discussing what makes them unique or different. How many times do we watch a game and in the 7th inning a pitcher comes out of the pen and has an insane k/9 or throws an unusually high percentage of a certain pitch? Middle relievers are often the behind the scenes players who sometimes can exceed expectations. So to start this new segment off, we will begin by talking about Jose Leclerc.
Leclerc was signed out of the Dominican and is in his age 24 season. Leclerc entered 2017 as the Rangers 18th best prospect according to Fangraphs. To date, he has a 2.23 ERA and an even better 2.05 FIP in 32.1 innings pitched. His 1.3 WAR ranks 9th among qualified relief pitchers. He throws mostly four seam fastballs and sliders. Leclerc has a great ability to avoid contact. In total, he ranks 6th among qualified relievers in in-zone contact percentage and is in the top 25 in out of zone contact percentage. In addition, when opposing hitters do make contact, they hit what is classified as soft contact 26.8% of the time which ranks 9th among qualified relief pitchers and his hard contact of 21.9% ranks 7th. Leclerc also possesses the ability to induce infield fly ball outs where he ranks 2nd among qualified relievers. A risky part about Leclerc is that he generally does not throw too many first pitch strikes. His 53.5% first pitch strike percentage ranks 20th lowest among qualified relief pitchers. And while Leclerc is more of a flyball pitcher he excels in keeping the ball in the yard. This year as of June 11, he is yet to give up a homerun. In his entire MLB baseball career, he has pitched 93 innings and has given up only 4 home runs. Maybe this is a fluke considering that when taking ball parks into consideration, his xFIP is 3.56 which is nearly a run and a half more than his regular FIP. If, for instance he were pitching in Boston, 3 doubles would have been 3 home runs. While Leclerc possesses a slider, he really only uses it when he is ahead in counts.
Rarely will he use it when he is behind in the count. So far pitching mostly fastballs when behind in the count has been working as hitters are just 6-30 against him. Hitters are 3-18 against his fastball and 3-11 against his slider. On the other hand when he is ahead in the count, opposing hitters have gone just 1-24 against his compared to 2-8 against his fastball.
Leclerc is proving to be one of the better relief pitchers of 2018. While he has a mid 90s fastball and hard slider, hitters should know what to expect when they are behind or ahead in the count. Leclerc will be a name that will not go away as he should be an effective reliever for years to come.