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Mets reliever Erik Goeddel may well be good

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Goeddel's splitter has been a weapon in the early stages of his major league career.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Drafted by the Mets in the 24th round of the 2010 draft, Erik Goeddel had a relatively nondescript minor league career. Almost exclusively a starter in his first three full professional seasons, Goeddel had a 4.37 in Double-A Binghamton in 2013. The Mets promoted him to Triple-A Las Vegas for the 2014 season, however, and had him pitch exclusively in relief.

The results weren’t pretty, as is often the case for pitchers in the Pacific Coast League, especially those pitching their home games in Vegas. Goeddel had always put up decent strikeout rates in his minor league career and maintained that in Vegas, striking out a batter per inning. He had always had a less-than-ideal walk rate, and that remained the case in Vegas, too. Even his home run rate didn’t change that much, but Goeddel gave up a whole bunch of hits and had a 5.37 ERA in 63.2 innings of work.

Late last season, Goeddel made his major league debut out of the Mets’ bullpen and made six appearances with varying results. He had a 2.70 ERA, but he walked four batters in 6.2 innings. He was slated to begin this season in Vegas, but the Mets called him up when Jenrry Mejia went down with an injury before the 51s started their season.

In 20 innings with the Mets this year, Goeddel has been very good. He has a 2.25 ERA and 2.64 FIP, both of which compare favorably to the major league averages for relief pitchers this year: 3.53 ERA, 3.67 FIP. He has struck out 25.1 percent of opposing hitters, while league average is 22.0 percent. And his 6.3 percent walk rate is better than the 8.7 percent average. There’s not enough data to declare Goeddel a long-term above-average relief pitcher, but the early results are promising. Let’s take a look at how he’s getting them.

Goeddel is essentially throwing three pitches this year: a four-seam fastball that has averaged 93.99 miles per hour, a splitter that averages 84.93, and a curve that averages 78.46, according to Brooks Baseball. A handful of his pitches have been classified otherwise, but those are likely slight variations of the three pitches he’s throwing.

As far as usage goes, Goeddel has thrown a ton of first-pitch fastballs and occasionally started an opposing hitter with the curve. He has almost never started an opposing hitter off with his splitter. And as you would probably expect, he reserves the offspeed stuff for when he’s ahead in the count, with splitter usage spiking when he has two strikes on a hitter.

Overall, Goeddel has an 11.8 percent swinging strike rate this year, which isn’t elite but is still pretty good, sitting a bit above the 10.9 percent major league average for relief pitchers. The fastball and curve get some swinging strikes, but the splitter has a very good 25.53 swinging strike rate. And it’s been very good against both left- and right-handed hitters. Let’s take a look at a couple examples of Goeddel’s use of the pitch.

April 30, 2015, vs. Michael Taylor

Goeddel faced Nationals outfielder Michael Taylor, who is also a rookie and has spent time filling in for Denard Span and Jayson Werth so far this year, in the seventh inning of a game that the Nationals eventually won.

Goeddel started with a fastball, which was called a strike as Taylor checked his swing.

Ahead in the count 0-1, Goeddel dropped in a curveball for a called strike two.

Goeddel then went back to the curve, but he missed outside with it by a pretty wide margin. But that didn’t really matter, as he then used the splitter, which Taylor swung through for a strikeout, even though it was a little up in the zone.

May 16, 2015, vs. Luis Sardinas

Goeddel again starts the at-bat with a fastball, but in this case, he throws four straight. Here are the first two.

From there, Goeddel threw two more fastballs, the first of which Sardinas fouled off Kevin Plawecki’s mask. The next one missed the strike zone and was called a ball. And then Goeddel turned to the splitter, which dove down and away from the left-handed hitter.