1, 2, 3 strikes you're out at the ol' ball game. That's how Troy Percival rolls or at least that's how he's "rolled"(no pun...actually pun intended) lately. Don't look now, but Troy Percival has somehow been effective over his last seven outings. Including yesterday's three pitch STFD effort, Percy has thrown six straight scoreless innings. It's a minor accomplishment for most, but I'm trying to give the guy some credit. Almost as important as the shutout innings is just the two walks and four strikeouts over that time frame. Small sample size but since April 15th, opponents have hit just .238/.304/.238 off of the grizzly.
Over those 23 plate appearances, he has thrown 94 pitches and some how has gotten 63% of them to fall for strikes. More impressive is the 12% swinging strike percentage during the streak. Some how the ol' wily veteran is actually fooling people into swinging and missing at his wild offerings. In fact, Percy has an O-Swing % of 28.1 despite a first pitch strike percentage of 43.1. Who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks.
I'm not trying to fool anybody and overall, Percy has still been a below average pitcher. While his ERA is 2.35, his FIP is over 5. This is due to poor overall ratings in the K/BB and HR/9 categories. One thing to note is somehow Percival has been a bit unlucky. Whether you can call a guy who seems to have no idea where his pitches are going unlucky or not is debatable, but even for Percival it seems a bit outlandish to believe hitters will maintain a 28% line drive rate against him. The high percentage in line drives could be the factor in his BABIP of .284 being .40 points higher than his career norm.
A few more things to note on the Rays "closer."
His velocity on his fastball is down around 90 mph, but he's not using it as much as he usually does. Normally living or dying (mostly) with the fastball, Percy has thrown the pitch 79.5% of his career. In 2008, he threw it nearly as much at 74.4%. While the drop isn't drastic in 2009, he is throwing the pitch less at 67.7%. He has also put away the curveball and broken out the slider a bit more. The biggest increase in pitch usage has been the change up. We all know the story of Percival going up to James Shields and asking him to teach him how to throw one. So far it's worked out in 2009. Percy is throwing his change up 17.7% of the time and has a nice eight mile separation from the fastball.
Results based anaylsis? A bit. Does Percival deserve a major league job as a closer? Probably not, but Percy has been wildly effective for now. We don't know how much longer that is going to last, but isn't that always the case with Troy Percival?