By: Chris Larson
At this year's trade deadline, there were certainly a fair number of recognizable relievers who were being thrown about in the rumor mill. Some of those names ended up moving, while others ended up staying put because their team either wasn't ready to give up on the season or couldn't get a fair deal made with the acquiring team.
Regardless, there were also a few under-the-radar players that were moved and given a new home. One of those names in particular was former Minnesota Twins/current Houston Astros reliever, Ryan Pressly. Heading into the trade deadline, Pressly was probably the least recognizable reliever available, outside of someone like Mychael Givens of the Baltimore Orioles, but was widely effective for Minnesota and provided them with a more than valuable trade chip when July rolled around.
Pressly, who turns 30 in December, was drafted in the 11th round of the 2007 Amateur Draft by the Boston Red Sox and later ended up being drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 2012 Amateur Draft before being a Rule 5 Draft Pick by the Boston Red Sox. Pressly is owed an affordable amount of money (around $500,000 dollars) for the remainder of the season and still has a year of control left for next season prior to hitting free agency thereafter.
On the season, with both the Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros, Pressly has a 3.20 ERA over 56.1 innings of work with a 2.80 Fielding Independent Percentage (FIP) and a strikeouts-per-9 rate of 13.1. Tremendously good stats for a relief pitcher and further proof as to why he was coveted by some teams, albeit not a nationally known name, that was connected to those teams looking for bullpen help prior to the trade deadline. Furthermore, Pressly has held opposing batters to a .241 batting average, over 241 plate appearances thus far, and has done extremely well against left-handed hitters primarily. Through the course of this season, Pressly has a .216 batting average against left-handed hitters, while he's got a .254 batting average against righties.
When studying Ryan Pressly's pitch repertoire, there are three primary pitches that he relies on every time he takes the mound, as illustrated by the chart below:
As seen from the chart, Pressly is throwing his fastball almost 10% less this season compared to during last season and in 2016, relying more on his slider once again (24.3% in 2016, 18.1% last season, and 27.0% this year), and throwing his curveball a little less often this year compared to the past two seasons. Still, his pitch mix is working and that is not the only thing fascinating when doing an in-depth analysis and why the Astros were so attracted to him.
One of the more fascinating subject points on Ryan Pressly revolves around his spin rate when he throws his curveball. According to Statcast data provided by Baseball Savant, Pressly has the second highest spin rate in all of baseball (3,216 RPM) which puts him just behind Garrett Richards of the Los Angeles Angels. The reason that is significant is because the higher spin rate on the baseball, the more the overall trajectory of each pitch changes.
Another significant note regarding Ryan Pressly has the 9th highest SIERA (Skill-Interactive ERA) among qualified relievers so far this season. In regard to that category, Pressly has a 2.48 SIERA which puts him with the likes of Edwin Diaz of the Seattle Mariners, who leads all relievers in that category, Josh Hader of the Milwaukee Brewers, Aroldis Chapman of the New York Yankees, and Blake Treinen of the Oakland Athletics, among some of the other Top 10 names in this category.
Additionally, another important statistic to measure regarding pitcher effectiveness is xFIP, which relates to Fielding Independent Percentage, but takes things in that category a bit further. FIP often times takes into consideration how the team's defense does behind said pitcher, but xFIP discounts a team's defensive struggles and measures the expected run prevention value. Within that category, Ryan Pressly ranks 8th, among qualified relievers, with a 2.68 value. For comparisons sake, the lowest this season is Edwin Diaz of the Seattle Mariners with a 1.64 value with the highest value (5.39) belonging to Miguel Castro of the Baltimore Orioles.
When it comes to defense, the move from the Houston Astros to the Minnesota Twins, is good news for Ryan Pressly. Thus far this season, the Astros have a Top 10 defense, based on Defensive Runs Saved, with 19 over 10,119 innings. On the other hand, the Minnesota Twins has a Defensive Runs Saved value, of -7, putting them 19th overall in baseball. As we've seen over time, defense plays a large role in how successful or unsuccessful a team is, especially a pitching staff, and the change of scenery should benefit Pressly, even though the Astros defense hasn't been that great this year. Still, to give Houston the benefit of the doubt, they have been without Jose Altuve, who returns to the lineup tonight, for a while and George Springer missed time on the DL as did Carlos Correa, so that surely all played into the team's overall weaker defensive numbers.
To close out the discussion, let's analyze how Ryan Pressly does when thrust into different situations i.e. with runners on, no runners, bases loaded, and runners in scoring position. Refer to this chart below for illustration:
As seen by the chart, Astros manager, A.J. Hinch, can practically put Ryan Pressly into any sort of situation and expect him to thrive regardless of the pressure of said situation. Although Pressly has the 11th highest BABIP among qualified relievers (.351), he has still excelled when asked upon as seen by his stats when the bases are loaded or there are runners in scoring position. That alone deepens the Astros bullpen and allows A.J. Hinch to have yet another option to turn to during late game situations come October.
Even though Ryan Pressly might not have been the most recognizable, or even one of the 10, most recognizable names to move at the Trade Deadline, he is still extremely valuable and could easily be one of the most under-the-radar pitching pickups that happened this past trade deadline. The least thing that Ryan Pressly does, is provide more depth to an Astros bullpen, that appeared, at least on the surface, to need additional depth during the first half of the season, and puts the Astros in position to attempt to repeat as World Series Champions.