When most people think of Paul Sewald, the 30 year old righty on the New York Mets, they think of his career 5.16 ERA, his inability to close games out, and being the epitome of what the Mets’ bullpen has been in recent memory. This often leads to Mets fans groaning and moaning when they hear his name called out of the bullpen, but is that all Paul Sewald is? He’s given up a ton of big home runs and hasn’t been a good reliever, but is that all she wrote?
Using stats that can show the true skill of a player, we can figure out if Paul Sewald is better than his ERA suggests and spark some hope in his success, let’s get to the data!
Can’t Hit It Hard Off Of Him
This was actually surprising when I was studying Sewald’s statcast metrics (from Baseball Savant of course, I spend way too much time on there) he has a career 31.8% hard hit% against, which is below the MLB average 34.5% and a .413 xSLG against which is average, a .318 xWOBA against, which is a little better than average, and a 24.5% K%, which is higher than the MLB average.
Batters struggle to hit the ball hard off of Sewald, and that’s something that for some odd reason has not translated well into a lower ERA, which is the big mystery right?
Death By a Million Hits
Paul Sewald has a career 8.8 H/9 which is not good at all, and combine that with his below average 9.1 BB% in 2018, and that’s how you get a 6.07 ERA. In 2018 he also had his worst H/9 of 9.9 which lead to a 1.509 WHIP. That explains a lot now doesn’t it? Sure he had a 3.98 xERA in 2018, and yea he didn’t get hit hard at all, but he had one massive issue: He couldn’t stop bleeding out hits.
When you look at his spray charts, in 2018 you see the onslaught of hits that he gave up, with a lot of them not being hard hit, not going very far, and making you wonder: Why did he give up so many? Well the answer is actually quite simple
Horrible Defenses Behind Him
It’s often undervalued how much a pitcher with a high contact against rate needs a good defense behind them. The Mets in 2018 had -69 DRS and a -32.1 UZR (which was the 27th in the whole MLB) and in 2019 a -86 DRS (28th) and -12.8 UZR (24th) which is not doing Sewald any favors. Does this situation get any better for the Mets though? Yes actually, it gets a lot better in 2020.
The Mets will be able to have Jeff McNeil in his best defensive position, 3rd base, instead of the outfield where he was below average defensively. Nimmo and Conforto are best at RF for Nimmo and LF for Conforto, so you can put the elite defender at CF Jake Marisnick and now your outfield is above average defensively. Now for the infield, with McNeil at 3rd who will replace Frazier (who was below average at 3rd defensively in 2019) which should help the defensive structure in the infield, however you still have your poor defensive combo in the middle infield.
Does this mean this team will have an elite defense? No, but it will be good in the outfield which is most important as that’s where Sewald got exposed and will see less doubles and triples, and more outs.
Look for Sewald to be closer to his xERA with a 3.80-3.90 ERA and be a solid reliever for the Mets in 2020, as the Mets defense won’t be digging the pitching into even deeper holes.