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Emilio Pagan Is Proving Himself Useful Again

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MLB: Oakland Athletics at Texas Rangers Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

I get the sense that Emilio Pagan has mostly been forgotten in 2018, and that’s partly for good reason - his full season pitching line leaves much to be desired. Something clearly wasn’t right as Pagan failed to do much of anything well. A demotion to triple-A Nashville to make room for Brett Anderson, and then subsequent promotion to Oakland when Anderson inevitably went on the disabled list comprise Pagan’s transaction log this season. It has certainly been a tale of two seasons for Pagan as he has pitched very effectively since being recalled and reappearing in the big leagues on May 19th. I think it’s time for Bob Melvin to start using Pagan is more high-leverage situations.

Pagan’s 2018 Splits

Timeframe ERA IP K% BB% K-BB% SwStr% HR/9 BABIP WHIP FIP xFIP SIERA
Timeframe ERA IP K% BB% K-BB% SwStr% HR/9 BABIP WHIP FIP xFIP SIERA
Mar. 30 - Apr. 28 5.93 13.2 10.8 % 6.2 % 4.6 % 9.1 % 2.63 0.320 1.76 6.99 6.27 5.34
May 19 - Jun. 7 0.00 8.1 33.3 % 12.1 % 21.2 % 18.2 % 0.00 0.176 0.84 2.28 4.22 3.11
Fangraphs.com

Strikeouts are way up and, even though walks are up, he has allowed fewer base runners on a per-inning basis. He has yet to allow a home run in just over 8 innings. He is enjoying a much higher swinging-strike rate, thanks to more swings and less contact on pitches outside the zone. Additionally Pagan is throwing first-pitch strikes more often.

Pagan’s 2018 Plate Discipline Splits

Timeframe O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr%
Timeframe O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr%
Mar. 30 - Apr. 28 29.5 % 75.4 % 50.2 % 73.2 % 86.1 % 81.9 % 45.1 % 55.4 % 9.1 %
May 19 - Jun. 7 34.3 % 66.7 % 48.8 % 47.8 % 72.2 % 62.7 % 44.6 % 69.7 % 18.2 %
Fangraphs.com

There is one discernible difference, that I noticed, in Pagan since his return to the Major Leagues. He appears to be releasing the ball closer to third base than previously.

Mar. 30 - Apr. 28

Emilio Pagan’s release point from March 30th through April 28th.
BaseballSavant.com

May 19 - Jun. 7

Emilio Pagan’s release point from May 19th through June 7th.
BaseballSavant.com

It’s a subtle difference and only a matter of inches. In March and April right-handed batters crushed Pagan. Since then he’s had much more success against righties. Perhaps there’s a connection?

Pagan’s 2018 Splits vs. RHB

Timeframe Total Batters Faced AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Timeframe Total Batters Faced AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Mar. 30 - Apr. 28 42 0.342 0.405 0.500 0.386
May 19 - Jun. 7 20 0.000 0.100 0.000 0.070
Fangraphs.com

It’s only 8 innings, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Although it appears Pagan has righted the ship. Currently the A’s employ a Trivino/Petit/Treinen combination to close out games, especially when they’re ahead. It’s time for Pagan to enter the conversation, and perhaps even replace Trivino as a primary set-up man. Since Pagan’s return his performance has been superior to Trivino’s in nearly the same amount of innings.

Pagan vs. Trivino: May 19 - Jun. 7

May 19 through June 7 ERA IP K% BB% K-BB% SwStr% HR/9 BABIP WHIP FIP xFIP SIERA
May 19 through June 7 ERA IP K% BB% K-BB% SwStr% HR/9 BABIP WHIP FIP xFIP SIERA
Lou Trivino 4.50 8 9.4 % 17.7 % 11.8 % 18.7 % 2.25 0.188 1.38 6.12 4.08 4.29
Emilio Pagan 0.00 8.1 33.3 % 12.1 % 21.2 % 18.2 % 0.00 0.176 0.84 2.28 4.22 3.11
Fangraphs.com

With the A’s hovering above .500 and the rotation losing pieces daily it’s encouraging to see Pagan’s turnaround, especially because he affords the A’s more options later in games. Should the A’s decide to continue using him more in middle-relief he will be an asset as his ability to pitch more than an inning at a time will no doubt be appreciated by Bob Melvin and the rest of the A’s pitching staff.