One of the most popular players early on the free agent market is free agent relief pitcher Darren O'Day, in whom the Dodgers are reportedly interested in as a setup man. And for good reason, as he has been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball the last four years.
The Dodgers' interested in O'Day surfaced Monday, with Jon Heyman of CBS reporting their interest, but along with a number of other teams including the Nationals, Cubs, Royals, Red Sox and Tigers. Bill Shaikin of the LA Times wrote Tuesday that O'Day is a pitcher the Dodgers should target, and Jerry Crasnick of ESPN said Wednesday the Dodgers were showing "significant interest" in the right-hander.
O'Day, who turned 33 in October, has 12 career saves, all spread over the last three years. When J.P. Howell exercised his player option to return to the Dodgers for $6.25 million, we looked at multi-year contracts signed by non-closing relief pitchers in the last two offseasons trying to shape his market.
|Multi-yr deals for non-closing relief, 2014-2015|
|Boone Logan lhp||2014||Col||1||3/$16.5m|
Zach Duke lhp
|Javier Lopez lhp||2014||SF||13||3/$13m|
|J.P. Howell lhp||2014||LA||21||2/$11m|
|Thanks to Cot's Baseball Contracts for filling in the blanks|
It turns out, the top of that list might serve as a floor for O'Day.
Some execs think O'Day's contract will come in well north of Luke Gregerson's 3-year, $18.5M deal with #Astros last winter.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) November 11, 2015
O'Day put up a 1.52 ERA in 68 games for the Orioles in 2015, his second straight sub-2.00 ERA, with 82 strikeouts and 14 walks in 65⅓ innings. Over the last four years he has averaged 71 strikeouts, 16 walks and 66 innings in 68 games with a 1.92 ERA.
From 2012-2015, O'Day ranks fourth in MLB in ERA, third in ERA+ (214), 16th in K-BB% (21.3 percent), 18th in SIERA (2.68), 20th in walk rate (6 percent), 28th in strikeout rate (27.3 percent) and 28th in FIP (3.08).
O'Day has also proven durable, pitching 69, 68, 68 and 68 games in the last four seasons, 11th in MLB in 263 relief innings and 13th with 273 games pitched during that span.
Oh by the way, O'Day doesn't throw hard, averaging 88.28 mph on his four-seam fastball in 2015, per Brooks Baseball, and 87.88 mph over the last four years. He topped out at 90.62 mph in 2015, and 91.19 mph in 2014.
The sidearmer also has a rather remarkable rising four-seamer, a pitch profiled by Eno Sarris at FanGraphs in July. The reason he throws sidearm was unearthed in 2013 by Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun:
He went to the University of Florida on an academic scholarship and was cut from the baseball team as a freshman walk-on. He tried again his sophomore year — after developing a funky side-armed delivery refined in a summer beer league — and eventually became the Gators’ closer.
But O'Day's fastball over his four years with the Orioles is also a pitch he only threw 28 percent of the time. He also mixed in his sinker (86.67 mph) 25 percent of the time, and his slider (79.73 mph from 2012-2015, 80.37 mph last year) 47 percent of the time.
However hard O'Day has been throwing, it has been working.
His swinging strike rate of 14.8 percent ranked 18th in MLB among pitchers with at least 50 innings in 2015. The only Dodgers pitchers with a better swinging strike rate (defined as swings and misses divided by total pitches) were Kenley Jansen (16.6 percent) and Clayton Kershaw (15.9 percent).
O'Day also apparently owns what Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal called in 2012 a "magic unicycle." He'll fit right in with the personal mobility devices in the Dodgers locker room frequented by Kiké Hernandez, Scott Van Slyke, et al.
He has been absolute death on right-handed batters, holding them to just .193/.261/.279 in his career, including just .177/.242/.263 in the last four years with a .229 wOBA that ranks ninth in MLB among pitchers with at least 50 innings against righties during that span. For comparison, the great Kenley Jansen is sixth with a .221 wOBA against vs. right-handed batters.
Left-handed batters have been relatively better against O'Day, hitting .235/.294/.409 in his career, though that's passable. Last year, O'Day held lefties to .207/.293/.333 and a .276 wOBA, a mark against lefties in 2015 better than Luis Avilan, Adam Liberatore, Chrs Hatcher and Pedro Baez.
He's not a closer, he doesn't throw hard, and he's about to turn 33. In a vacuum, those three facts would be strong arguments against pursuing O'Day. But he has proven he can get people out, consistently, and that's one of the most valuable gifts there is.