Following a breakout 2018 season that saw him make both the NLDS and NLCS roster for the Dodgers, Caleb Ferguson has suffered through a mediocre 2019. And that’s being charitable.
His ERA sits at 5.13 in 40.1 innings and his FIP is even worse at 5.25. There’s no real way to spin his season as a whole as a step in the right direction. Yet somehow he’s now a real candidate to make the 2019 playoff roster.
On July 20, Ferguson had a 6.65 ERA in 23 innings, but he was lucky to only have had it that bad, as he was allowing batters a .940 OPS against or about making every batter into Pete Alonso. Something had to change and that he did.
At some point around the middle of July, he started working with a new grip on his curveball thanks to Rick Honeycutt, “The biggest change is Honeycutt had me change my grip, obviously for the better. We changed the grip and I have more ball to work with. It just gives me more room for error. I don’t have to be so fine with it.“
After a July 29 game, Dave Roberts also mentioned it was something he’s been working on.
Well, from July 21 to now, Ferguson has a 3.12 ERA in 17.1 innings. That doesn’t seem especially impressive, but his OPS against is down to .541, turning every batter into basically Billy Hamilton. That will play in about any pen.
Ferguson’s changes to the grip have been measurable, as he now throws it two ticks faster and it has gone from allowing a .250 average with a .438 slugging to a .177 average with a .294 slugging despite being thrown more frequently. Speaking of which, he’s now less predictable. He was 85% fastballs and 15% curves before, but now he’s doubled his curve usage to 70% fastballs and 30% curves.
Perhaps at least as important to the Dodgers is that his wOBA allowed against lefties has gone from .333 to .189, making him a potential lefty killer alongside Adam Kolarek that would free the Dodgers up to deploy Julio Urias anywhere they see fit.
So despite being an unlikely candidate to be trusted with anything less than a 10-run lead just a couple months ago, Caleb Ferguson has seemingly turned it around enough where depending on the matchup, he could be called upon to be the third lefty in a playoff bullpen and it would be hard to argue that he’s one of the best options the Dodgers have right now.