86 percent of Angels reliever Ernesto Frieri’s pitches thrown last season were fastballs. Despite the patently predictable approach, the 27-year-old has enjoyed immense success in his brief Major League career, owning a 2.32 ERA in 162.2 innings. He also has one of the highest strikeout rates among all relievers. Only five have posted a better K/9 since 2010 (minimum 100 IP as a reliever):
- Craig Kimbrel: 15.89
- Kenley Jansen: 14.58
- Aroldis Chapman: 14.13
- Carlos Marmol: 13.43
- Antonio Bastardo: 12.38
- Ernesto Frieri: 12.04
Frieri knows that Major League hitters can only be fooled by fastballs for so long, though, so he has worked on adding a cut fastball and a change-up to his arsenal this spring. Thus far, he is enjoying the results.
A day after Ernesto Frieri made his spring debut, he and catcher John Hester were both pleased with the development of the pitcher’s new cutter and changeup. Frieri was ecstatic after inducing a groundout on a changeup in Saturday’s game.
“That tells me everything I’m doing here, all the hard work, is good,” Frieri said this morning. “I’m going to continue doing it. That’s a good pitch, a really good pitch. I just need to get more comfortable and get more confidence, throw it like my fastball.”
Frieri allowed one hit in his only inning of work in spring training so far. The right-hander figures to be a crucial part of the back of the Angels’ bullpen behind closer Ryan Madson.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.
The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.
Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.
Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”