Since joining the rotation, Andrew Triggs has been rather lights out. The sinkerballing, semi side-arming former reliever has an ERA of 2.25 in five starts. He's almost completely eliminated the walks that plagued him when he came out of the pen, and he even warranted another Jeff Sullivan article. Things are exciting for Andrew Triggs, what can he be going forward?
He's a groundball machine
As exhaustive research by Billy Butler will show, it's hard to hit groundballs for hits, and it's harder to do serious damage when you don't hit the ball in the air. Triggs is getting groundballs at a Kendall Graveman like 51.7% rate.
That's not surprising. Triggs sidearm style lends itself to Ziegler like results. His motion creates natural sink that causes hitters to drive the ball into the ground and there's reason to believe that thanks to his mechanics, he's less likely than other sinkerball pitchers to suddenly lose said sink, Dan Otero style.
The mark of 51.7% is especially impressive when you consider Triggs circumstances. He's been a regular on the commuter jet from Oakland to Nashville and when he's been up, he's been tasked with long man role. That's not an optimal spot for anyone, yet he saw enough success to warrant a move to the rotation.
The control and command have been far superior since he moved to the rotation
As mentioned above, Triggs has essentially eliminated walks since he's become a starter. In 19.2 innings as a starter, he's walked a single batter as opposed to the 12 he walked in 29.2 innings as a reliever. He's clearly better at staying in the zone and eliminating free passes, which is important for a guy who isn't a strikeout machine.
Command is a little harder to quantify, but Triggs has passed the eyeball test with flying colors. Over his past few starts, he's miss down below the zone rather than hanging pitches in it, so when something does go wrong, it usually ends in a ball being called rather than a ball being launched.
You have to wonder if Triggs is just more comfortable starting games. It'd make perfect sense, before he'd hop off a plane and into a bases loaded, 8-0 game. Now, he gets a clean slate. He knows when he's appearing, the situations matter, and we have hard evidence that he's improved one part of his game. Being in a more predictable role may have done wonders for Triggs.
The inning count
Of course, there are issues with the idea of Andrew Triggs as a full-time starter. Prior to 2016, Triggs started exactly one game as a professional. The lack of starts have kept his inning count down, and he's already sailed two outs beyond his previous inning count high.
That's an issue but it's not necessarily a dealbreaker. You might recall a similar case who turned out pretty well. Prior to becoming a successful starter in 2014, Jesse Chavez had started exactly two games in his professional career. His previous innings high was exactly the same as Triggs, and Chavez managed some serious success as a starting pitcher.
Predictably, Chavez couldn't handle a full workload and that's just fine. He was a very good pitcher for a good portion of two seasons and even though he couldn't finish the job, he was valuable. Functional starting pitching is a rare commodity, having a guy who can fill in here or there and be counted on to eat some innings at a relatively low-run rate is something every single major league team would take. That's a reasonable hope for Triggs, with his ceiling being a legit rotation pitcher for at least a portion of the year.
Has he been overly lucky?
There are various factors in judging a pitcher's performance. Triggs has done well as a starter in spite of pitching in front of the Oakland defense and in spite of having almost zero offensive support. Oakland is a nice place to pitch, but there are factors like the rough defense that would indicate in a way, he's been unlucky.
That said, there's reason to believe Triggs has in fact been lucky, at least in the batted ball sense. As a starter, hitters are managing a meager .241 BABIP against him. His profile does lend itself to a guy who could suppress good contact and therefore induce low batting averages, but .241 is probably lower than the best BABIP we should expect.
The good news is, even if that jumps a decent chunk, Triggs would still be a good pitcher. As a groundball guy, he could conceivably turn singles into double plays and limit the damage a more normalized BABIP would bring.
We have a storyline for the last month of the season! Triggs provides intrigue and hope, and could be a redeeming factor for an otherwise ugh season.
Also, free Arismendy Alcantara.