Camilo Doval’s 2022 season got off to a rocky start. He blew a save and gave up three runs in his first appearance, but he progressively pitched better as the season wore on, converting 27 of his next 29 save opportunities. By season's end he had drastically improved his walk rate and was firmly entrenched as the Giants’ closer for the foreseeable future.
Some believe that the catalyst for Doval’s gradual metamorphosis into one of fantasy baseball's best closers towards the end of last season was the addition of his new sinker to his mix of pitches. Doval’s repertoire of pitches originally included a cutter which averaged 98.2 MPH on the radar gun and had reached the 104 MPH mark on occasion. Doval’s original pitch mix also featured a hard slider which was regularly clocked in the upper 80 MPH range.
However, the addition of a sinker to Doval’s pitch mix created a whole new experience for opposing batters. Since both Doval’s slider and sinker looked very similar as they were released from his pitching hand, opposing batters had a hard time guessing which pitch was coming their way. That made things especially difficult for right-handed batters who guessed incorrectly since Doval’s sinker moves in towards them and his slider moves away from them.
His sinker also helped increase his ground ball rate. Prior to July his groundball rate was already an above average 49.4%, but once Doval added his sinker his ground ball rate shot up to 62.9%.
Doval continued tinkering with the grip on his sinker and despite his slider having the highest Whiff% from among his pitches, his sinker became his primary offering beginning in August. The change in his pitch usage helped improve Doval’s overall performance. From April 1, 2022 to August 31, 2022 Doval’s overall BAA was .217, his Barrel rate was 5.8 and his average exit velocity was 86.1 MPH. From September 1, 2022 and through the end of the season all of those stats showed improvement. Doval’s overall BAA dropped to .200, his Barrel rate was 0.0 and his average exit velocity fell to 85 MPH. Overall his sinker and ERA had an inverse relationship. Doval’s ERA continued to steadily decrease as he increased the usage of his sinker.
Overall, it seems that Doval thrives when he’s under pressure. He pitched in save situations in 31.2 innings last season. During that time frame his ERA was 1.99 and his WHIP was 1.168. In 36 non save situation innings pitched Doval had a 3.00 ERA and a 1.306 WHIP.
Should Doval be unavailable to close out games for the Giants Taylor Rogers would likely be the next man up. He has 81 career saves including 31 last season. He was especially tough against left-handed batters last season (.167 BAA). Ironically, Doval had a rather pedestrian .261 BAA lefty batters last season.
Doval knocked off just over one run from his first half ERA (2.95) to his second half ERA (1.93) last season. Most of the major project models predict that he’ll save well over 30 games this season. If he continues to refine his sinker and overall pitch mix, he could easily take his career to the next level and be considered among the elite closers in baseball.
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