Wade LeBlanc was a late signing by Mariners’ general manager Jerry Dipoto after he was cut by the New York Yankees. And he’s arguably one of the team’s more effective off-season acquisitions as he’s already been worth .5 a win through four starts and five relief appearances.
LeBlanc has pitched 2.65/3.61/4.41 through 34 innings while allowing a ridiculously low home run to fly ball ratio of 8.2%; which is why his xFIP is at 4.41 and so much higher than his FIP and ERA, he’s not giving up a ton of dingers. The lack of home runs has come thanks to a surprisingly low rate of hard contact at 24.8%.
So how has LeBlanc induced less hard contact than he has in a couple seasons by effectively mixing his pitching and having superior command. The 33-year old’s fastball has been averaging 86.7 miles an hour and been using it as his out pitch around the top of the zone.
His fastball has been used on 42.2% of pitches this season. LeBlanc been keeping it up above the belt and inside when he’s been facing righties. Then he drops the change-up (31.3%) at 78.1 MPH on opposing batters.
LeBlanc also been effectively mixing in his cutter low in the zone to also help induce weak contact.
One thing that jumps out to me when looking at those heat maps is the supreme amount of command the veteran pitcher has displayed throughout his time in Seattle. As of right now he’s posting a ridiculously low walk rate of 3.6% while striking out 19.6% of batters faced.
The only number that looks particularly unsustainable is that low walk rate since his career average is 7.4%. So I’d expect that number to regress more to his career norms which will drive up his FIP and ERA as more runners reach base. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as LeBlanc has stabilized the back end of a shakeup M’s rotation.
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