Michael Wacha, who pitched last season with the New York Mets on a one-year deal, will be using a different uniform in 2021. The Tampa Bay Rays, known for their use of analytics and technology to optimize pitching performance, are taking a similar flier on the talented right-hander.
Wacha, 29, agreed to sign a one-year contract worth $3 million to pitch with the 2020 runner-ups, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. His time with the Mets included a 6.62 ERA and a 5.25 FIP in 34 innings, but the Rays believe there is potential for more in his right arm.
In fact, despite his inflated ERA with the Mets, he posted some of the best strikeout and walk rates of his career. Wacha’s 9.79 strikeouts per nine frames was the highest of his eight-year career in MLB, and the 1.85 BB/9 was the lowest.
He had a weird statistical season with the Mets
Some of the best analysts of the game say that one of the most appropriate ways to try to determine future performance (it’s obviously impossible to know for sure) is by judging a pitcher’s strikeout-to-walk ratio, and Wacha certainly evolved on that front.
The other issue for the Rays is that during his time with the Mets, Wacha served up a whopping nine home runs in his 34 frames, or 2.38 per each nine innings. That obviously won’t last over a larger sample size, but it is a worrisome development that he needs to fix in order to be effective and win a rotation spot.
With a little better luck in the home run and BABIP department (he had a .366 mark with the Mets, by far the highest of his career) Wacha’s season could have been better. He was injured at one point, too, missing a couple of starts with shoulder inflammation. But overall, he seems like a solid investment by the Rays at that price.