The Dodgers offense is coming off of a strong series against the Cubs in Chicago. They were shut out in the second game on Friday, but in the other three games they scored 22 combined runs. The Dodgers are starting this week going up against a surging Pirates team who have been led by a starting pitcher who quietly has been one of the best pitchers in the league thus far in Johan Oviedo.
The right-hander has a 2.22 ERA and is coming off of a season where he had a 3.21 ERA and 3.17 xERA. Down below we are going to break down what has helped get Oviedo off to such a hot start and what the Dodgers should expect to see on Tuesday.
Pitch #1: Slider, 2023 usage rate - 40 percent
2023 stats - .174 xBA, .240 xSLG, .222 xwOBA
Average velo - 89.0 MPH - Spin rate - 2,491 RPM - vertical movement - 30.4 inches - horizontal movement - 4.9 inches
Oviedo’s slider has undergone a rather large overhaul. Last season he was throwing it at 85.7 MPH with 35.5 inches of vertical movement, this season, as shown above, is very different. The increase in velocity has made it a far more effective pitch as shown by the metrics against it. The whiff rate against his slider this season is 37.8 percent, the highest mark amongst all of his pitches. The chase whiff percentage this year is an eye-popping 90 percent, so it is almost a guarantee that if a batter fishes for this pitch, they are not making contact. His mark on it was 58.8 percent last season, which it likely will grow closer to as the season progresses. But it shows us just how dominant this pitch is for Oviedo. When facing left-handed batters, Oviedo’s usage rate on this pitch dips down to 31.3 percent, but against righties it’s 50 percent, the highest amongst all of his pitches.
Pitch #2: Four seam fastball, 2023 usage rate - 31.9 percent
2023 stats - .322 xBA, .664 xSLG, .437 xwOBA
Average velo - 96.3 MPH - Spin rate - 2,216 RPM - vertical movement - 19.4 inches (5.5 inches below average) - horizontal movement - 8.8 inches
The usage rate on this pitch has dropped in every season of Oviedo’s Major League career with this year’s rate being 11.5 percent lower than last years. When behind in the count, surprisingly, this is Oviedo’s second most used pitch at 29 percent, with his slider being the highest. This season batters have not swung at this pitch as often as you would think with an in-zone swing percentage of 52.1 percent. The chase percentage on the pitch is also just 19.4 percent. Despite this pitch being thrown at an average of 96.3 MPH the average exit velocity off the bat of hitters is just 85.7 MPH, down 4 MPH from last season. Left handers see this pitch from Oviedo 33.9 percent of the time, the highest amongst all of his pitches.
Pitch #3: Curveball, 2023 usage rate - 21.7 percent
2023 stats - .130 xBA, .157 xSLG, .149 xwOBA
Average velo - 80.6 MPH - Spin rate - 2,399 RPM - vertical movement - 43.7 inches (7.7 inches below average) - horizontal movement - 8.6 inches
When Oviedo throws his curveball, it is almost always thrown out of the strike zone. The out of zone percentage on it this season is 72.2 percent, an 11.1 percent decrease from last season. The chase rate on the pitch though is just 30.8 percent. Despite an average launch angle of 12 degrees this season and 25 last season, hitters have a ground ball rate of 52.9 percent this year, but the fly ball rate is 41.2 percent, the highest amongst all of his offerings. The usage rate on the pitch slightly drops when batters are ahead in the count as it dips down to 19.4 percent, with three balls though the usage dips to 15 percent. Oviedo rarely throws this pitch to right-handed batters as its delivered just 15.5 percent of the time to them.
Did not include changeup and sinker which he has only used a combined 23 times this season.
Key matchup to watch: J.D. Martinez
Despite the back of the baseball card showing J.D. Martinez is off to a slow start with only a .250 batting average and .306 on base percentage, he has been tearing the cover off the ball according to the analytics. Martinez has an xBA of .292 and xwOBA of .383, both of which are high-end numbers.
He hits in arguably the most important spot of the Dodgers lineup as after him in the cleanup spot, there is not a whole lot in terms of run producing. As a result, if the Dodgers want to succeed against, and his slider/four seam mix it is going to fall largely on the shoulders of Martinez. This does look like a matchup he should dominate as besides last season he has historically thrived against both pitches and already has a combined run value of five against those two pitches. Against all other pitches he has a RV of one.
Prediction: Oviedo throws 5 ⅔ innings, allows two earned runs and strikes out six.