ATLANTA – Tony Cingrani is upside down this season. The Dodgers think they can turn him right side up again.
The veteran left-hander acquired from the Cincinnati Reds as part of the Dodgers’ deadline-day splurge has found it more difficult to retire left-handed batters than right-handers this season. Lefties are batting .293 (12 for 41) with four doubles and six home runs off Cingrani. Right-handers are batting .255 (13 for 51) with three doubles and three home runs.
That goes strongly against his career-long trend. In five big-league seasons before this, Cingrani held left-handed hitters to a .208 average.
“We’re pretty optimistic,” Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi said. “He has pretty rare arm strength for a left-handed reliever, has had success in the past, has closed some, has been a starter. So we think he’s going to bring a lot of versatility to the ’pen.
“He’s obviously struggled a little against left-handed hitters this season but has had success in the past. We’re hoping with some tweaks in game-planning and sequencing he’ll get back to that level and be a real asset for us.”
The Dodgers have done this before. Grant Dayton and Josh Fields are two examples of pitchers acquired for the potential the Dodgers’ analytics saw in them.
In Cingrani’s case, that potential involves his slider.
“Basically, the gist I got was use my slider more and use my fastball in different locations,” Cingrani said before getting the full briefing Thursday afternoon, his first day with his new team. “I don’t really know what they have for analytics. But I’m excited to see what they have because it’s pretty aggressive.”
In simple terms, Cingrani’s slider has been more effective than his fastball throughout his career. It has produced a higher percentage of swings and misses than his fastball (15.2 percent compared to 10.9) and a lower batting average (.204 to .231). But he has not thrown it nearly as often. Cingrani has thrown his fastball (which is averaging 94.4 mph this season) 82 percent of the time during his career. Brooks Baseball shows that he has thrown only seven sliders this season.
“The fastball plays up and the slider is above average but just hasn’t been used as much as it probably could,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, calling them “two potentially elite pitches.”
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