Tim Mayza has been one of baseball’s best relievers this year
Photo credit:(Mary Altaffer/AP)
5 months ago
Remember when everyone hated Tim Mayza during the off-season? Pepperidge Farms remember.
Not only was that a bit foolish after one game (albeit, an important one), but Mayza has been the Blue Jays best reliever, if not one of the best in the majors this season.
How Mayza stacks up against other Blue Jay relievers:
This season, the 31-year-old left-handed reliever has a 1.40 ERA and a 1.99 FIP in 25.2 innings pitched. Mayza isn’t a big strikeout guy, as he has a 23.3 K%, well below most relievers we’ll look at in this article.
He does however, have excellent command of his pitches (4.9 BB%), and has yet to give up a home run. We’lll look more into that in the next section, but let’s first compare him to a few other Blue Jay relievers.
Mayza’s ERA and FIP are by far the best on the Blue Jays with 10+ innings pitched. In terms of ERA, Erik Swanson is the next closest, as he has a 2.65 ERA (and 3.87 FIP) in 34 innings pitched. In terms of FIP, which focuses on what the pitcher can control, strikeouts, walks, and home runs, Jordan Romano is the next closest with a 2.59 FIP (and 2.67 ERA).
This isn’t to say that he should be trusted ahead of Romano and Swanson in high-leverage situations, but Mayza has been statistically been the best reliever on the team, and one of the best in baseball.
In fact, he’s been one of the best relievers in baseball:
Tim Mayza ranks ninth in ERA and eighth in FIP for pitchers with 20+ innings pitched. Below are two tables, one of pitchers with a lower ERA, as well as pitchers with a lower FIP.
|Pitcher Name||Earned Run Average||Innings pitched|
There are some really good relievers in that table. Daniel Bard doesn’t close anymore. Yennier Cano, Felix Bautista, Josh Hader, and Jhoan Duran are some of the best closers/setup men in baseball.
Let’s look at the FIP table. Like the ERA table, we’ll look at the pitchers ahead of Mayza, as well as their FIP and innings pitched. Once again, the sample size is 20+ innings pitched.
|Pitcher Name||Fielding Independent Pitching||Innings pitched|
Let’s play a game. There are only two relievers on both of these lists. One of them is Ian Hamilton of the New York Yankees, while the other is Felix Bautista, one of the best closers in the sport.
Mayza may not get the same leverage opportunities as many of these players, but it’s safe to say he’s been statistically among the best this season.
He has encouraging batted ball data:
Mayza is one of 13 pitchers that have thrown 20+ innings without allowing a home run.The last thing we’ll look at in this season is HR/9. There are some familiar names on the list of such pitches, such as Ian Hamilton, Gabe Speier, and Yennier Cano.
Alongside them are impressive pitchers such as Clay Holmes (2.35 ERA, 2.27 FIP), Aroldis Chapman (2.84 ERA, 2.10 FIP), Lucas Sims (2.70 ERA, 3.13 FIP), and Brad Hand (3.42 ERA, 2.09). The latter is interesting, because the former Blue Jays for a very brief time has found himself pitching for the Colorado Rockies. Could we get a reunion at the trade deadline?
A big reason why Mayza hasn’t given up a home run this season is just because he doesn’t give up fly balls. Once again, we’ll use the sample size of 20+ innings pitched. He has a 14.9% fly ball percentage, which ranks as the third lowest in the league behind Ian Hamilton and Andre Pallante.
In turn, Mayza has a 25.7 line drive percentage, which ranks as the 34th most out of a sample size of 300 pitchers who meet the 20+ innings threshold. This has given him a batting average against of .265, but he does a great job stranding them with a 83.9 left on base percentage.
So we’ve looked at his fly ball percentage and his line drive percentage, so what about the other 59.5% of the batted balls. Well, Mayza has done a fantastic job of generating ground balls. Let’s move on to the next section.
Need a pitcher to strand runners? He’s your guy:
Using the same 20+ inning sample size, Mayza ranks tied for 13th in ground ball percentage with 59.5% of batted balls being ground balls. Only a few percentage points behind the 9th placed Max Fried, who has a 60.9 GB%. His ground ball percentage is why he’s one of the most valuable pitchers in the Blue Jays bullpen.
Mayza is the guy that John Schneider calls upon when there’s a lefty on the mound, that much is known. However, he’s also inherited the most runners this season with 32, as Sportsnet’s Blake Murphy tweeted Tuesday night.
He’s tied for eighth with a stranded runner percentage of 18.8%. You’ll never guess who some of the names are that have a lower percentage. Guys like Yennier Cano, Jovani Moran, and Gabe Speier.
The difference is, there is no one with a better stranded runner percentage that has inherited as many base runners as Mayza. The leader, Will Smith, only has inherited 16 runners all season. Yennier Cano, who has a 10% stranded runner percentage has 20, the most of anyone ahead of Mayza.
The fact is that while Mayza doesn’t have the highest stranded runner percentage, he by far deals with the most.
Fun fact about this, two of the six runners he let score came in an early season series against the Kansas City Royals, where he allowed two of Trevor Richards’ base runners to score.
Fun with splits:
The last section will focus on two important splits.
Leverage splits are hard to quantify. Fangraphs doesn’t describe what a “leverage” situation is, but Mayza has pitched in 5 innings of high leverage. What’s odd about this is that he’s pitched better in high leverage than any other situation.
In high-leverage, he has held batters to a .118/.211/.176 slash line, giving up one earned run and just two hits while striking out four. His worst is medium-leverage, pitching 5 innings where batters are slashing .409/.480/.500 with three earned runs against.
Mayza has pitched the most in low-leverage situations, where the 59 batters he’s faced are slashing .254/..254/.305. He’s struck out 14 while walking nobody, which is a 23.7 K-BB%.
So it’s hard to really quantify what leverage is, but he seems to excel in high-leverage situations, suck in medium-leverage situations, and is just right in low-leverage situations.
The argument this article is making is that Mayza is elite. While he may not have the leverage innings of other relievers we’ve mentioned in this article, his ability to strand runners is elite, on top the numerous other things we’ve covered. The one area where Mayza lags behind, or so it’s thought, is that he can’t pitch to right-handed batters.
Let’s just say this, Mayza is an elite pitcher against left-handed batters. This isn’t even a debate. He’s faced 57 of them this season, walking one, striking out 12 and allowing 15 hits. Overall, left-handed batters are slashing .268/.281/.286 against Mayza. While he’s given up his hits, he does a tremendous job of stranding them, but this has been covered.
Against right-handed batters, he has some issues. Their batting average is actually lower than left-handed batters, but they’re rocking a .262/.326/.381 slash line. He’s walked four right-handed batters and has given up all four runs he’s allowed this season to righties Moreover, he’s given up five doubles compared to just one against left-handed batters, but has stuck out the same amount facing 11-less batters.
Although Mayza is weaker against right-handed batters, he’s by no means unplayable against them. According to Fangraphs, he’s pitched 10.2 innings against righties for a 3.53 ERA. Not great, but serviceable.
So, is Tim Mayza elite?:
I think so. He may not be a closer or even a setup man, but he’s elite in several areas. For starters, he’s statistically one of the best at stranding inherited runners. Not only does he have a great stranded runners percentage, but he’s also inherited the most in the majors. Left-handed batters have yet to drive in a run against Mayza as well.
Those two numbers make him one of the most important relievers in the bullpen. But compared to the elite of the elite, Mayza stacks up pretty nicely.
Tim is Him.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Brennan_L_D. One stat that I didn’t actually cover is the fact he’s only given up an earned run in just three of the 35 games he’s appeared in this season. One of them was opening day, while another one I was actually there for. I don’t remember much from that game, but yeah, Mayza is elite.
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