So, we probably need to acknowledge Kyle Wright has come back from the minors looking different than when he left.
And if you don’t know what I mean, no worries, I made a few gifs to illustrate my point.
Here’s a Kyle Wright slider from April:
Pretty typical slider from him. Not a bad pitch at all. Decent location, low and away, and coming in at 85 mph with good movement. If you don’t know, Wright’s slider has always been his best pitch, averaging between 85-86 mph.
Or at least it had been.
This is the slider he came back with:
Uh, ok. So that’s a 90 mph slider exploding off the plate. Pitch also gets bonus points because that’s actually the first out Atlanta has ever recorded against Trea Turner.
Here’s another one:
Once again, 90 mph with significant horizontal and vertical movement. And it’s not just to right-handers. Here’s one from the last series against San Francisco:
Backdoor to a lefty, bottom of the zone at 89 mph. That’s just a beautiful pitch.
I double-checked just to make sure these weren’t isolated incidents, and nope, since he’s returned, Wright has added two full mph to his slider, with his average going from 86 mph to 88 mph. Two mph is a significant jump.
I thought maybe it was just because of being in the bullpen, but he’s pitched there before, and never with this slider. And even though it’s only around 25 sliders he’s thrown since being back, pitch velocity as a metric stabilizes really quickly. It’s a fundamental skill, and once you’ve shown you can do it a handful of times, it’s clear you have that skill.
But that 25 sliders thrown since being back is also significant. For his career, Wright has thrown his slider around 25% of the time, which probably isn’t enough. Since his return, he’s upped that to 47%. He’s been featuring it. And while pitching is very, very complicated, throwing your best pitch more seems like a good thing.
And just to quantify how good his slider is, despite throwing just 100 sliders on the season, its pitch value is at almost 5 runs. Over a full season, that would be one of the very best pitches in all of baseball. And now he’s throwing it 88-90 mph.
Wright still has work to do on his game, principally the command has to keep improving. But I think it’s also important to acknowledge he’s come back throwing his best pitch better and throwing it more often. And given his prospect pedigree, could be the start of something. We’ll find out together.