Top spin rates helped Pressly post solid '16 numbers

Top spin rates helped Pressly post solid '16 numbers

ABERDEEN, S.D. -- With a fastball that averages 95 mph, to go along with a wipeout slider and a nasty curveball, it's easy to see Twins reliever Ryan Pressly has impressive stuff.

But with the power of Statcast™, it's possible to further analyze his repertoire, which ranks among the game's best when it comes to spin rates. His average spin rate of 2,572 RPMs on all pitches ranked as the eighth-highest mark in the Majors last year.

That metric was powered by his curveball with a spin rate of 2,979 RPMs (11th-highest) and his slider with a spin rate of 2,638 RPMs (34th-highest). The MLB average spin rate for curveballs and sliders is 2,308 and 2,090 RPMS, respectively. He was also one of only four pitchers last year to register at least 3,000 RPMs on more than 100 pitches, joining starters Seth Lugo of the Mets and Lance McCullers of the Astros, as well as fellow reliever Dana Eveland of the Rays.

Those spins helped Pressly have a solid season in 2016, posting a 3.70 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 75 1/3 innings. But Pressly, speaking while on Twins Caravan this week, said he feels he can be even better in '17, as he's learning to better harness his stuff after parts of four years in the Majors.

"You're always trying to get better in every aspect," Pressly said. "I'm just trying to be more consistent. I want to be that guy [manager Paul] Molitor can count on every day."

Pressly's scoreless relief

As for the spin rates, Pressly is much more interested in the location of his pitches, but understands the value of the new statistic to evaluators and fans. He pointed to the fact that he snapped off a few solid breaking balls that were simply left over the plate, such as a slider with a spin rate of 3,069 RPMs that was deposited 423 feet for a homer by Cleveland's Mike Napoli on July 15.

"It doesn't matter if you have the highest spin rate in the game if it's right down the middle," Pressly said. "I had a pretty high spin rate on that pitch that Napoli hit out. As a pitcher, you're better off focusing on location."

But the statistics do bear out that the higher the spin rate, the lower the batting average and average exit velocity. Batters hit .250 (89.3 mph average exit velo) against Pressly on his pitches with a spin rate of more than 2,500 RPMs, while hitting .295 (90.8 mph average exit velo) on pitches with a spin rate of less than 2,500. Taking it a step further, batters also only hit .192 with an average exit velocity of 86.3 mph on his pitches with at least 3,000 RPMs.

Pressly used his slider a bit more than his curve last year (24.3 percent vs. 21.3 percent), but plans to integrate his slider even more after seeing fellow relievers, such as Cleveland's Andrew Miller, have so much success with the pitch.

"I'd like to use the slider a little bit more this year," Pressly said. "I think I throw it off my fastball pretty well. I just want to get the hitters more off-balance and uncomfortable."

Reliever Brandon Kintzler, who is traveling on Twins Caravan with Pressly, said he's envious of Pressly's repertoire and believes he's due for a breakout year.

"I think he's learning who he is," Kintzler said. "He's got great stuff. When he learns who he is, he'll take off. He's getting better at that. We've had a lot of conversations and I think early on, he was overthinking it. But once he fully gets it, he'll take off because he has ridiculous stuff."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.