After a dreadful performance on Opening Day, the Mets’ bullpen has been much better, particularly over the last week. Gonzalez Germen leads the group with a 1.23 ERA and 1.82 FIP, both of which are the result on rates of 9.82 strikeouts and 2.45 walks per nine innings. He has not yet allowed a home run, either.
Germen has succeeded by getting opposing hitters to swing and miss at pretty remarkable rates. His changeup and slider—a pair of pitches Eno Sarris recently identified as elite based on 2013 data—have been outstanding this year. Through April 12, Germen has thrown 97 pitches this year: 46 four-seams fastballs, 21 sinkers, 20 changeups, and 10 sliders, according to Brooks Baseball.
Opponents have swung and missed at 7 of the 20 changeups and 5 of the 10 sliders—rates of 35 and 50 percent, respectively. Both rates are outstanding.
When it comes to throwing a changeup, it’s great if a pitcher can mimic his fastball delivery and take a lot of velocity off his change. Germen certainly has the velocity gap down this year, with his fastball averaging 94.3 miles per hour and a changeup averaging 84.5 miles per hour, according to Brooks.
Here’s Germen getting David Freese to swing and miss at his changeup on Saturday night in Anaheim.
And a couple of pitches later in that at-bat, here’s Germen throwing his fastball by the swinging Freese.
While those deliveries might not look identical, they’re pretty close, and the biggest noticeable difference on those two pitches is Germen’s follow-through with his right leg. By the time that happens, though, both pitches are already on top of the hitter.
Freese is not the only right-handed hitter to fall victim to Germen’s changeup this year, either. Here’s Jayson Werth whiffing on a Germen’s changeup on April 2.
Also from that game, here’s Ryan Zimmerman flailing at a Germen change.
Of course, the pitch is effective against left-handed hitters, too. Here’s Germen using it in the same game for a whiff from Bryce Harper.
He's not using it as often as the changeup, but if he can keep getting whiffs with the slider as he has so far in his big league career, it looks like a valuable third pitch. With some improvement on it, perhaps Germen can cement himself as one of the Mets' high-leverage relief pitchers for the long term.