Adam Ottavino
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets keep adding to an already improved pitching staff.

The New York Mets made a splash by trading for veteran starter pitcher Chris Bassitt yesterday. Today, general manager Billy Eppler and the team addressed their next main area of concern, the bullpen. They came to an agreement with 36-year old New York native, Adam Ottavino. The deal is for one-year at only $4,000,000.

Who is Adam Ottavino?

The right-handed pitcher has pitched in the league for ten seasons and has bounced between Colorado, the Yankees, and Boston the past four seasons. He is prototypical in the sense he is very stout against right-handed hitters (.213 BAA vs. .271 over his career against lefties).

He has posted ERAs of 1.90, 5.89, and 4.21 over the past three seasons. However, a deeper dive into these performances show he should have faired much better.

In comparison to these actual ERA figures, he had expected xERAs of 3.16, 3.71, and 3.70 over that time period. His FIPs paint the same picture, as he registered numbers of 3.44, 3.52, and 3.96 the past three seasons.

Basically, Ottavino — whether it be bad luck, poor play behind him, or the smaller ballparks he has been playing in — has been pitching much better than the actual results he has been getting.

So, what kind of pitcher is he? Ottavino is known best for his terrific slider (thrown 46.4% of the time last year) that has tremendous horizontal movement. His slider led the majors in horizontal movement last season, beating out Collin McHugh who had a terrific season.

He also features a sinker (thrown 27.5% of the time last year) and four-seam fastball (thrown 20.7% of the time last year). Each pitch sits in the mid-90 MPH range. Ottavino also can throw a curveball, changeup, and cutter. Each of which he threw fewer than two percent of the time.

Outside of the 2020 season, Ottavino has always found his success by inducing soft contact. Since 2018, he has ranked in the league’s 88th percentile or higher in Avg. Exit Velocity and Hard Hit %. In doing so, it has usually resulted in him not giving up many hits – xBA of .187 since 2015 (league average is .246). He also does a good job keeping the ball in the park as his home run rate has been below 2.0% in three of the past four seasons.

The issue with Ottavino has been his walk rate. He has had a rate over 10% every season since 2017. This rate is usually in the bottom-10% of the league. His effectiveness is usually tied to how is control is. Hopefully, pitching coach Jeremy Hefner can help him keep that in check this season.

The Mets are only paying $4,000,000 for a reliever whose underlying statistics grade out extremely well. Pitching in a pitcher’s friendly ballpark like Citi Field should help these numbers reflect more of what he actually is this season.

There are the control concerns, however, he has shown in the past he can work around that. Overall, another nice signing for the new Mets’ regime.

What’s Next?

The Mets’ bullpen currently projects out as follows:

  • Edwin Díaz (RHP)
  • Seth Lugo (RHP)
  • Trevor May (RHP)
  • Miguel Castro (RHP)
  • Adam Ottavino (RHP)
  • Drew Smith (RHP)

This leaves roughly two more spots for a presumed left-handed free agent signing and/or the likes of a Sean-Reid Foley, Yennsy Díaz, or Jake Reed. The Mets would benefit greatly from adding at least one more free agent arm to the pen.

Names that still liter the market are left-handers Andrew Chafin, Brad Hand, and Tony Watson among others. As for the right-handers, which seems unlikely given the recent signing of Ottavino, Collin McHugh and Ryan Tepera among several others.

Metrics courtesy of Baseball Savant.