Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/15/14
Cincinnati-reds-louis
After Aroldis Chapman, it’s easy to argue Tampa Bay’s Jake McGee was the league’s best left-handed relief pitcher last season. He recorded a 1.95 ERA (third behind Chapman and Eric O’Flaherty) and a 1.81 FIP (second behind Chapman) over 55.1 innings for the Rays. He racked up 73 strikeouts against just 11 walks (6.6 K/BB) in the always-tough AL East, and he did so with mastery of hitters from both sides of the plate. McGee held 90 lefties to a .256/.289/.376 (.289 wOBA) line and dominated 122 righties to the tune of a .097/.157/.134 (.120 wOBA) line. Remarkably, this comes just a year after right-handers torched McGee with a .487 wOBA (59 TBF). Now, with the Rays searching for a bat and the Nationals searching for a left-handed reliever and a suitor for Mike Morse, McGee could become the subject of trade rumors. The pertinent questions: How much of McGee’s improvement was real? Can he continue be a legitimate threat against both lefties and righties? To begin the 2011 season, McGee put together disastrous April in which he allowed 14 baserunners in seven innings and struck out just two batters. His velocity was excellent for a left-hander at an average 93.7 MPH, but the fastball was torched — hitters went 9-for-22 with a double and a homer off the pitch, and before long McGee was shipped back to Triple-A Durham. He was back in Tampa by July with a tweaked pitching motion. His arm slot dropped nearly half a foot after his return, and with it came the blazing velocity behind his 2012 exploits. McGee averaged 96.2 MPH on his fastball in his second stint in the majors, just under his average velocity in 2012. The results weren’t all great the second time around either — he allowed four home runs in just 21 innings back, the driver behind a 4.29 ERA. However, McGee struck out 25 against nine walks, laying the foundation for what was yet to come. McGee’s 2012 was filled with excellence, including a run of seven consecutive strikeouts detailed here by Jeff Sullivan, an excellent illustration of McGee’s powerful fastball and three-quarters delivery. McGee significantly improved his ability to pick up whiffs with the fastball in 2012. After a 10.6 percent fastball whiff rate in the second half of 2011 (still well above the league average), McGee’s 2012 fastball drew swings and misses 14.4 percent (on 772 offerings). McGee took his increased velocity and turned it into a devastating weapon against all hitters with improved control. He threw balls 30 percent of the time with the fastball in 2012 compared to 40 percentin 2011 against right-handed hitters and induced about eight percent more swings. McGee was already drawing whiffs on over 20 percent of swings in 2011. With more advantageous counts and swings — many defensive ones at that — on his side, adding whiffs was inevitable. Jake McGee’s fastball has turned into one of the league’s best pitches since refinement back in Durham. Even though McGee is almost certain to allow a few more free passes and miss the zone a few more times in 2013 than he did in 2012 (particularly if he isn’t throwing to Jose Molina again), the differences were stark enough to believe the fireballing lefty can be a major back-end bullpen piece in Tampa (or elsewhere) next season.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Father and son allegedly attack coach over playing time

The AFC North will regress in 2015

Doug Baldwin bringing 'sunblock' to Revis Island

Will the first-round running back return in 2015?

Robert Kraft: Richard Sherman is a 'marketing whiz'

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Rob Gronkowski's party bus headed to Super Bowl

Matt Barnes not happy with NBA for $25,000 fine

Brandon Browner: 'No hard feelings' with Sherman, Thomas

Gronk reads erotica, sings Katy Perry at SB Media Day

Governor donates $10K to UNM hoops star’s cancer charity

U.S. Soccer: Hope Solo needs to do 'number of things' to return

WATCH: Zach Parise picks up his tooth off the ice

Crosby's name misspelled as 'Sindey' on Penguins program

Joe Biden blows off Olivia Munn to talk to Aaron Rodgers

James Shields need to adjust his contract expectations

Kurt Warner wonders about Patriots cheating in Super Bowl

4-star QB recruit decommits from Michigan

Top storylines for Super Bowl XLIX

WATCH: Pacquiao, Mayweather meet at halftime of Heat game

One of Tom Brady's ‘treats’ is avocado ice cream

Does MLB need more offense in the modern game?

Re-ranking the Top 25: exposing the biggest flaws

Tiger on wearing mask: ‘Not a lot of brown dudes at ski races’

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Doug Baldwin ready for Revis Island

Top storylines for Super Bowl XLIX

Barnes unhappy with NBA over fine

Does MLB need more offense in the modern game?

Re-ranking the Top 25: exposing the biggest flaws

Putting the Cavs’ pieces together

Super Bowl XLIX: Key people to know

Ranking all 48 Super Bowls

Bill Simmons fires a shot at Ray Lewis

NFL pushing CFP to change schedule

Can Yanks not pay A-Rod his bonuses?

Petition started to remove Pats from SB

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.