The Rays have made a move to bolster their rotation, signing Michael Wacha to a one-year, three-million-dollar contract. Wacha, 29, has previously pitched for the Cardinals and Mets.
He had the worst results of his career this season, giving up 2.38 HR/9 with a 6.62 ERA. He only made seven starts in a Mets’ rotation that was among the worst in the league outside of Cy Young finalist Jacob deGrom.
One of the ways the Rays were able to win the American League was by developing cheap talent and maximizing value, and signing Michael Wacha gives them another opportunity to do so. Now, let’s look, is there potential for signing Michael Wacha to be a great move?
Signing Michael Wacha is a Great Move?
“How is signing Michael Wacha a great move?” you may ask. In 31 starts since the beginning of 2019, Wacha has a 5.15 ERA, 5.54 FIP, and -0.2 fWAR. Although his numbers may look bad at first, Wacha increased his strikeout numbers and decreased his walks, and joining the Rays make him look like a prime candidate for a bounce-back season.
The Rays have a knack for tapping into the potential of their players, by playing to their strengths. Wacha has one of the best change-ups in the game, giving up just a .342 SLG%, .266 xwOBA, and .211 BAA with a 33.1% K% since his debut in 2013.
Wacha had a great rookie season, throwing 64.2 innings while striking out about one batter per inning and maintaining a 2.78 ERA in 2013. In seven seasons in St. Louis, Wacha made 151 starts and put up a 3.91 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 4.00 xFIP, 12.4 K-BB%, and 4.22 SIERA.
He has proven that there is some juice left in his arm, with a 3.99 SIERA and 4.30 xFIP in 2020. He also did well in Six Man Rotations’ pCRA, which adjusts for barreled balls and quality of contact, at 3.55 in 2020. Wacha’s downfall this season was the home run ball, as it was in 2019.
Analytical baseball minds believe pitchers can’t do much to control their HR/FB% and chalk up discrepancies to luck, which is likely why Tampa Bay took a flyer on him. In his 2019 and 2020 seasons, Wacha has a 21.6% HR/FB%, but in his 6 years prior (2013-18), he had a 10.3% HR/FB%. Part of this is obviously due to him throwing worse pitches, but Tampa must think they can fix that too.
In his best seasons, Wacha was having a lot more success with his fastball than he currently is, but his velocity and spin rate are nearly the same. In 2013 and 2014, Wacha was attack hitters with fastballs much higher in the zone than he was in 2020, which could be part of Wacha’s problem.
By signing Michael Wacha, Tampa Bay has given themselves another potential option for the 5th man in their rotation next season.
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