Andrew Heaney 2019 Outlook

Andrew Heaney (LAA – SP) – Early ADP 185.9 

What if I told you that Andrew Heaney had a very high spin rate on his fastball? What does that mean? Well, I’m no physicist but I’ll do my best. Here’s what I do know, the spin of a fastball counteracts the force of gravity. The faster it spins, the less it drops. Hitters account for this drop when tracking a ball and if a fastball with a very high spin rate doesn’t drop as much as the hitter anticipates, it appears to “rise” AKA the rising fastball. That’s why a high spin rate fastball can be utilized more effectively up in the zone.  

You can see his sinker (orange line), which he uses as his primary fastball hits up to 2,500 RPM at the end of the season. Travis Sawchik of FiveThirtyEight Sports states the following in a recent October article:

“Leaguewide batting averages offer a snapshot into the importance of spin. When pitchers threw fastballs between 93 and 94 mph with an average spin range of 2,240 to 2,300 revolutions per minute, hitters posted a .279 average this season. But against the same velocity range with an increased spin of 2,540 to 2,600 rpms, batting average declines to .255. The more spin a fastball has, the more it appears to rise and resist gravity, and that creates more swings and misses, as demonstrated by Jeff Zimmerman of FanGraphs.”

This fits well with Heaney because he only throws about 92-93 mph on his two-seamer. As long as he can keep his spin rate up, he should be more successful. I’ll touch more on the two-seamer/sinker later.

In 2018, Heaney was finally healthy, threw 180 innings, struck out exactly 180 batters and walked only 46. That’s a 9.0 K/9 and a 2.25 BB/9, yup. That’s pretty, pretty, pretty good. Some people might not love his 4.15 ERA or only nine wins. However, I’ll point to the ERA estimators like SIERA and dRA and they tell me, he’s more of a 3.60 ERA type of pitcher.

Let’s take a look into Heaney’s repertoire. Heaney throws his sinker 56% of the time followed by his curveball 26%, and his changeup 17%. He’s mixed in a four-seamer less than 2% of the time as well. Based on results, his changeup was his best pitch is 2018 but for me, his curveball is where he makes his money. Heaney rocked a 41% O-Swing, a 57.7% Contact rate and a 19.9% Swinging strike rate on the pitch in 2018. That was good for a 41.2% K rate and a 65 wRC+. Heaney’s changeup is interesting because it actually induces more swings outside the zone than the curveball but without the strikeouts. The changeup induces ground balls over 50% of the time on batted balls, so I do love this pitch for Heaney. However, the sinker usage needs to be lowered (even with the aforementioned spin rate).

Heaney’s sinker doesn’t get the ground balls you’d expect from a pitch that’s meant to primarily have balls hit into the dirt. It doesn’t get whiffs, but what it does do and get thrown for strikes. Getting ahead in the count for a pitcher is important, something Heaney did 65% of the time in 2018. So, there is a use for the sinker, especially if he can continue to have a high spin rate. Personally, it should be lowered to just under 50% of the time and increase the usage of his secondaries. I trust the intelligent coaches and metric analysts with the Angels (if he stays there) to figure this out. If Heaney can utilize his curveball and changeup 4-5% more in 2019, I think we would see a few more strikeouts and his ratios may see a nice drop. 

For 2019 I’m projecting 175 IP 12 Wins, 3.73 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 181 K

Article Notes:

(Cover Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

O-Swing%: Swings on pitches outside the zone
Contact rate: How often a batter makes contact when he swings
Swinging Strike%: Swings and misses per pitch thrown