This offseason has seen the Cincinnati Reds go out and get the pitching. It’s also seen them go out and get the coaches. One of the coaches that the team has added is former big leaguer, and Red, Caleb Cotham. He’s all of 31-years-old, and last pitched in the Major Leagues in 2016. After his playing time he went to work for the Bledsoe Agency as the co-director of player development. One of the things he was at the forefront of is the use of high-speed cameras to help develop pitching. Baseball America wrote about Cotham in May of 2018, as well as how some teams – particularly the Houston Astros, were using high speed cameras in development of pitching.
The camera in question that’s being used is the edgertronic camera. The reason that everyone in baseball is using it is that it’s simply far cheaper than other high speed cameras. They require more than just the initial camera buy to get working, but when compared to cameras that have similar frame rates (1000 per second – while your normal camera will shoot anywhere from 24-120 frames per second) cost eight times as much, or more.
And that is where things get interesting. The Reds brought in Caleb Cotham as their assistant pitching coach. His specialty was, in part, his use with these cameras and the ability to use them to help pitchers better, and more quickly, develop their pitching abilities. Let’s hope that the Reds bought up all of the edgertronic cameras that they needed when they hired him back in early January. The cameras are sold out and on back order until at least April.
Everyone is familiar with Trackman/Statcast at this point. It’s taken over baseball in the last handful of years. Even in the minor leagues you won’t find a park that doesn’t have the Trackman radar system set up to track pitches and exit velocity for hitters. Last season the Reds also invested some money in the smaller, portable Trackman options to use. They could be used for bullpen sessions, or in batting cages. It will be interesting to see if they made a similar investment this offseason at the minor league level with the edgertronic cameras for development in the minors.
Re-developing Sonny Gray with the Reds
Sonny Gray has been one of the better pitchers in Major League Baseball during his career. When he was in Oakland he made a run at the Cy Young Award. But the 2018 season wasn’t his best. His ERA was 4.90 and his walk rate was the highest of his career. That’s not to say there aren’t some reasons to think he can turn things around. But, he will have to turn some things around to be what the Reds hope he can be.
One of the reasons to believe that the Reds can “fix” Sonny Gray is that when he went to the Yankees, they changed his pitch usage quite a bit. New York is a team that tries to get all of their pitchers to throw fewer fastballs and more offspeed pitches. Eno Sarris of The Athletic wrote about how the Reds could improve his pitch mix in 2019.
Sarris noted that his worst pitch was his change up. Fangraphs pitch values backs that up in a big way. Sonny Gray throws a 4-seamer, a 2-seamer, a change up, cutter, slider, and a curveball. The cutter and change up aren’t pitches that he went to much in 2018, though – throwing them a combined 5% of the time. While he didn’t throw the change up much, when he did, it was absolutely crushed. When looking at the value of his pitches per 100 thrown (of that specific pitch), his change up was worth -7.27 runs. His cutter, which he also barely threw, was at -4.42 runs. The fastball and slider were at -0.89 and -0.20 respectively. The curveball, and his sinker, were both above-average. The curveball was the best at 0.49, while the sinker was at 0.18.
It’s not just the pitch usage that Sarris notes as ways that could improve what Sonny Gray could do in 2019 to get back to where he used to be. Go give the article a read for some very detailed ways that could help Gray and the Reds re-develop what he brings to the table.
MLB Pipeline Top 100 Prospects
Tonight on MLB Network and MLB.com at 8pm, MLB Pipeline will unveil their Top 100 prospect list. The Cincinnati Reds have landed five prospects on the Baseball America list this year. They landed four prospects on the Baseball Prospectus list, too. So if this is something you’re interested in, tune in.