First of all, I want to thank my buddy Rey Correa for mentioning this target after my latest “Free Agent Target” (Sean Doolittle) article. Rey mentioned that Jake McGee had a terrific bounce back season in 2020. Honestly, McGee success has completely flown over my head last season, so without Rey, I wouldn’t have written this article.
McGee’s 2020 was very strong with the Dodgers. Over 20.1 innings, he pitched to a 2.66 ERA and a minuscule 1.67 FIP. He had a crazy low WHIP of 0.83. His main success was his swing and miss stuff. The 34 year old was in the 99th percentile in K% and 87th percentile in whiff rate. With his great K rate numbers he was also in the 97th percentile in BB%. High K and Low walk rates, who doesn’t love that?
The only issue with McGee was his tendency to allow hard hit contact. His exit velo against his opposition was one of the worst in the majors and his hard hit percentage was in the 4th lowest percentile. His average exit velo was 92.3, so when hitters found a way to make contact, it was hit well most of the time.
Another concern was his launch angle against his opposition. He allowed a 20.8 degree launch angle against opponents (league average is 11.9). A hard hit contact with a good launch angle isn’t a recipe for success. But then again, he was able to limit batted balls in play, so it was less of a concern for McGee in 2020.
However, what’s worth mentioning is that this came in a short season and his 2018/2019 in Colorado wasn’t great. Over his two seasons combined, he pitched to a 5.54 ERA in 92.2 innings. His strikeouts per nine was just 8 and his WHIP was at 1.43, a high mark. Combine that with his issues allowing hard hits and it just isn’t pretty.
So let’s look more into the difference between 2018, 2019 and 2020. The major difference is his 4 seam fastball. McGee added significant velocity on his fastball. In 18/19 he was around 93.5 mph, while in 2020 he increased to 94.9 mph. Almost 1.5mph difference. He also added more break on his fastball (horizontal movement). It accounted for a big difference in expected slash line on his main pitch in 2020.
Look at that major difference in XSLG on his 4 seam fastball. Almost a drop of .300, which is amazing. McGee had so much success with his fastball, he threw it a whopping 96% of the time. His run value on the fastball went from -10 in 2019 to plus 4 in 2020. Overall, his success with his bread and butter is a big plus in my eyes. Throwing it 96% of the time and still finding that type of success is terrific and substantial, if his velo stays up in a longer season.
Looking more into Jake McGee’s reason for success, I think the Mets should take a look at McGee. Is it a small sample size? Yes. Is his hard hit rate a concern? Yes. However, his improvement on his main pitch is something I do have trust in. Plus it’s not like McGee will break the bank anyways so it’s worth a shot, right?
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