In 2021, Jonathan Loáisiga was one of the best relievers in baseball. Over 70.2 innings, he sported a 2.17 ERA, a 2.58 FIP, 3.3 bWAR, and 2.4 fWAR. With an 18.7 K-BB% and a ground ball rate over 60, he was nothing short of dominant to opposing batters. 2022 has not picked up where 2021 left off.
Coming into Saturday’s game in Chicago, he sports a 5.93 ERA and a 5.99 FIP. He’s already surrendered as many homers–3–as he did in all of 2021. He’s already walked 8 batters, too, having only walked 16 in all of 2021.
On the plus side, there’s some good things going for Loáisiga. His average exit velocity against is still in the 95th percentile. His barrel percentage is in the 70th percentile. Chase rate? 96th. The problem? All of those were in the 99th percentile last year, including his hard hit percentile rank, which is now 50th. The contact batters have made against him this year has been a problem.
While soft contact against Loáisiga is up from 7.2 to 8.3, solid contact is up from 2.1 to 5.6; barrel% is up from 3.1 to 5.6. Line drives are up from 15.9 to 25. Grounders are way down, too, from over 60% to 47.2%. That’s still a fine number, but it’s the second lowest of his career and a huge departure from his previous successful seasons. This is also borne out in the launch angle hitters are achieving against him, too, up to 11.1 from 1.5 in 2021. Let’s focus on the grounders for a moment, with this chart:
Look at all those downward trends from 2021 to 2022. The secondary pitches aren’t getting grounders like they used to and his main pitch, the sinker, has dropped from a 68.5 grounder rate to 52. 52 is a good groundball rate in and of itself, but when there’s that big a drop, it’s alarming. To wit, the launch angle against his sinker in 2021? -5. This year? 5.
Given this drop in grounders and the aforementioned lack of control Loáisiga’s had in 2022, I wanted to look at his sinker location in 2022 vs. 2021. 2022 is up first, then 2021.
What I’m noticing here is a trend of this year’s sinker being slightly higher and slightly more to the arm side and out of the zone on the arm side. Perhaps the pitch is running too far in to righties and too far away from lefties for them to offer at it. This shows up in his chase rate on sinkers, which is down about 3% from 2021.
In terms of release point, vertical drop, and horizontal break, his sinker in 2021 and 2022 are more or less the same. The process seems to be there, but the results aren’t. Hopefully there’s a course correction coming, but it’s clear that Loáisiga has to get the control and command of his sinker back in place.
Jonathan Loáisiga is a talented pitcher with great stuff. He has the potential to be the next Yankee closer. I thought that going into 2022 and I still do, even with these bumps in the road. I trust him and the team to correct these woes and for him to be successful in 2022.