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Pat Neshek signing: Scouting the funk for Astros fans

Understand the funk that is coming at you from the mound. Understand Pat Neshek.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

There is really no other way to describe Pat Neshek on the mound besides "funky." He delivery consists of flailing arms and jerking movements. He gets his spine bent over at times and has very good deceleration of his arm which makes him look even more odd due to his untraditional deceleration path. It's just FUNKY!

In his 8 seasons in the majors he's been up and down. He was a good reliever early on before falling into shuffle guy, and even a terrible reliever while donning a Padres uniform.  However, he was able to bring his career back around this past season with the Cardinals. In fact, he was accrued the 12 highest WAR among relievers in 2014 with 1.8 fWAR (David Robertson tied for 13th with 1.7 fWAR).

But, what made him so effective.

His repertoire is pretty straight forward. A sinker that sits around 90-91 MPH, a 84 MPH slider, and a very slow change up up at 71 MPH. However, each pitch has it's own uniqueness. The sinker has 10 inches of horizontal run into RHH hands along with good sink. Sink that is very similar to the change up. The slider actually doesn't have the big horizontal run away from RHH that is primarily characteristic of the pitch. It's break is more in the 12-6 direction but has the velocity and shape of the slider. The change up has a ton of separation in velocity from the fastball, nearly 20 MPH! Being able to throw the pitch and make it look like a fastball is the primary concern with the pitch, but as far as measurable, velocity difference is the most important aspect of the pitch. His huge separation makes it a very dangerous pitch.

Sinkers aren't exactly notable for whiff rates. It's really just a great pitch for ground balls. However, Neshek had a rather high whiff rate (11.7%) on his sinker last year. His slider has a 19% whiff rate but has a higher than usual fly ball rate. Which on the surface seems like a bad thing. Fly balls have lower BABIP but are more prone to home runs. Last season he had an extremely low HR/FB ratio at 4.3%. He also produced 11% whiff rate on his change up thanks to that velocity separation.

You take career highs in whiff percentages for his fastball and slider as well as a career low HR/FB, and a low BABIP (but not career low BABIP), you have the makings for a career year.

Sounds like buying high.

Unless you think the 2014 version of Neshek is more representative of what he is. You've seen (and possibly heard) me discuss the importance of pitch sequencing based on effective velocity and tunneling. We know Brent Strom is a proponent. We know that the Cardinals use it to some extent as well. So, lets look at the usage and how it differs from previous years.

Neshek pitch usage

Pat Neshek pitch usage

We see significant changes in usage. A big spike in sinker usage. A big drop in slider usage. And a gradual increase with change up usage. What that means is that the Cardinals likely worked on how he approached hitters. He went to a more traditional balance in his usage. But the key is likely in when and where those pitches were used.

And if you like charts/graphs/graphics, here's one more that goes to show just how dominant he can be against RHHs.