There are 94 pitchers with at least 200 innings pitched over the past two years. Dan Straily ranks 34th in ERA. He also has the 19th worst FIP, 11th worst xFIP, and 24th worst SIERA. Only Ervin Santana has a bigger gap between his ERA and FIP.
With the Cincinatti Reds in 2016, Straily performed well from a results perspective. There was good reason to think he got lucky considering his 3.76 ERA came with a .239 BABIP and a left on base percentage over 80. Straily’s strikeout rate was average and his walk rate was bad. With the Marlins this season, Straily’s been better. His ERA is nearly identical but his FIP and other peripherals have been better. His BABIP is up to .272, higher than his career .258 BABIP. Through 569 career innings, Straily might just be pitching in a way that leads to depressed BABIPs. He’s a flyball pitcher with a penchant for popups. Like Marco Estrada before him, we might just have another FIP breaker.
Straily has a three pitch mix relying on his 4-seam fastball, slider, and changeup. Straily’s fastball has below average velocity, ticking in at 90.8 MPH on average. However, there are few pitchers who are able to make their fourseam fastball “rise” as much as Straily. This is what helps give his fastball above average swinging strike rate and an elite pop-up rate. Only 4 pitchers with at least 200 fastballs thrown have a greater infield flyball percentage than Straily.
The slider is the second most used pitch featuring above average whiff rates and a good groundball rate. Straily releases the pitch from a very similar arm angle to his fastball which influences the deception factor (in a good way).
It’s tied for the 8th best pop-up rate this season (minimum 200 sliders thrown). Straily seems to have a penchant for getting the easy out.
Lastly, Straily’s changeup is one of the most interesting. He uses a splitter type of grip making it a split-change.
Although it does not have ideal velocity differential relative to the fastball, Straily’s change has had the most drop relative to his fastball this season. All in all, this gives him a third pitch, good enough for generating whiffs, inducing grounders and popups. Pitchers generally need three pitches to be successful and Straily’s got them.
The flyball pitcher has been managing contact fairly well. Of the 151 pitchers with 1000 pitches thrown, Straily’s xWOBA ranks 31st, tied with Jharrel Cotton this year. Based on Andrew Perpetua’s methods, Straily’s xOBA is .306, below the league average .321.
And for what it’s worth, Straily doesn’t have a platoon advantage thus far in his career. Lefty hitters and righty hitters have batted .316 and .313 respectively. The change has held lefties to a .194 batting average whereas the slider has limited right handed hitters to a .172 batting average.
One of the more interesting aspects of Straily’s improvement is his work with Driveline Baseball. Straily used weighted balls as well as other mechanisms to increase strength, leading to an increase in velocity. Straily credits Driveline Baseball giving him a different view of approaches to pitching.
2017 has brought the 28 year old a career best strikeout (22.2%) and walk (6.8%) percentage. Before 2017, Straily posted average strikeout rates and below par walk rates. Straily’s 2-strike approach has shifted slightly to throwing less fastball and more change and slider. Both pitches are strong at inducing whiffs. This explains the some of the uptick in strikeout rate. Different division, sequencing, pitch location, and slight differences in movement of pitches, among other factors, may explain the rest. Striking out more batters and giving the free pass to fewer is always a good sign.
With the trade deadline looming and Straily having years of team control left, he shouldn’t be cheap. Straily has a unique skillset lead by a heavy flyball approach and three good pitches. To manage downside risk, Straily needs to continue striking out batters at his 2017 rate and keeping the walks down.