The Thing Luis Avilan Was The Best In Baseball At

You didn’t think much about Luis Avilan last year. Why would you? He was arguably the least notable part of the huge July trade that netted the Dodgers Alex Wood, Bronson Arroyo, Jim Johnson, Jose Peraza, Mat Latos, and Michael Morse, and then, in 15.2 innings, he had a 5.17 ERA. We know the bullpen wasn’t great, but you certainly thought of Kenley Jansen, Chris Hatcher, J.P. Howell, Pedro Baez, Yimi Garcia, and Juan Nicasio before you thought of Avilan.

But, you know, ERA for relievers is dumb, especially in a small sample, and an 18/5 K/BB in those 15.2 innings is actually pretty interesting. Allowing one run or fewer in 21 of 23 games is pretty interesting. And leading all of baseball in something we think may be important, well that’s very interesting.

I’m talking about exit velocity here, and while we don’t know how well this correlates from year to year, because we’ve only had it available for one year, the fact that the top starters at it were Clayton Kershaw, Dallas Keuchel, and Jake Arrieta is a pretty good start. Is it a sustainable skill? Not sure. Is it impressive that in year one, three guys we know to be elite showed they were very good at it? Sure is.

But that’s “among starters,” which infers a minimum pitch limit. What if we head over to Baseball Savant and search just by pitchers who had at least 50 tracked balls in play?

  1. Avilan, 81.0 mph
  2. Joaquin Benoit, 83.2 mph
  3. Aroldis Chapman, 83.5 mph
  4. Dellin Betances, 84.04 mph
  5. Brandon Maurer, 84.09 mph

Those are some impressive names, and Avilan isn’t just on top, he’s on top by a considerable gap.

So: Small samples, first year of data, no doubt. No idea if this holds up next year. But I do know that a guy we never think about apparently missed some bats and prevented hard contact. It’s something worth watching next year. It’s something worth paying attention to Luis Avilan for.

About Mike Petriello

Mike Petriello
Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.