John Gant has been told he will make the team as a relief pitcher to start the season. While I believe that he will likely make a start or several throughout the course of this season, the numbers (minus innings pitched) below will be based on him being a reliever. As a reliever, Gant will be able to utilize just the best pitches in his repertoire (sinker/changeup) while eliminating those pitches he doesn't feel are working that day out of his other three offerings. Back in mid-October, I wrote this about those two pitches of Gant's:
Those are his best two pitches and they have very similar action but have an 11.7 mph difference, making them harder to differentiate. His sinker has an above average revolutions per minute while his change up is below average. His sinker is in the zone 58% of the time while the change up is out of the zone 58% of the time. His changeup has 2 less inches of horizontal movement, but drops nearly twice as much as his sinker vertically!
Let's go ahead and talk about what my bullpen projections look like for him this year:
John Gant's 2019 Projection:
100 innings between start and relief
relief numbers below - they'd be a little higher as a starter
3.51 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 1.350 WHIP, 2.35 K:BB
8.550 H/9, 8.460 K/9, 3.600 BB/9, 0.900 HR/9
That's perfectly acceptable for a multi-inning relief role of the long reliever variety. Those numbers would be a SLIGHT step back from last year, but fairly similar. You'd expect him to improve a bit more as a reliever rather than taking a step back.
Compare those to the typical reliever over the last 5 years here:
What can be pointed out to show that things CAN be better than that?!?
Hitters looked absolutely foolish against his change up last year at times. Cardinalsgifs here highlights just how badly Josh Harrison of the Pirates looked (falling to a knee while missing by several inches) on a John Gant offering last year.
If Gant can continue to 1) set up that pitch using his sinker and 2) command that pitch in 2019, he could be formidable again out of the pen or in the rotation at times. He has not shown the ability to do that every year he's been up, however.
How/If things go wrong:
Gant threw his sinker nearly 40% of the time last year and the expected slugging percentage based on batted ball data was about .100 points higher than what he actually got from batters. His sinker could have been much worse. In 2017, it was much worse than 2018. In 2018, his slugging percentage against was just .335. The expected was .436. In 2017, the expected was .403. That's fairly consistent. However, the results in 2017 showed a slugging percentage against of .609 against Gant's sinker. If his sinker gets crushed again, then things could go very wrong. That is basically all on his command, as in 2017, he also walked nearly 18% of the batters whose PA ended in a sinker. In 2018, that number was nearly cut in half at just 9.7%.