Seranthony Dominguez is performing brilliantly, in spite of poor Statcast numbers


Statcast numbers aren't even real, anyways...

NOTICE- All stats are prior to the games played on 6/13.

You probably trust Seranthony Dominguez, right?

After all, there's not much to dislike about him. He's a hard-throwing, fairly dependable righty, who's posted superb numbers, all while advanced stats have continued to generally back him up. Over 23 games this year, Dominguez has posted a 1.61 ERA, a 0.94 WHIP, being backed up by a 1.62 FIP, 2.38 SIERA, 2.66 xFIP, and 2.83 xERA. Simply put, he's been good.

Now how about Orioles righty Kyle Bradish?

That name probably isn't ringing any bells, and if it is, there's probably not many positives coming from him.

Bradish has made 8 starts for the Orioles this year, and over his dismal 37.2 innings, he's posted a futile 6.45 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 5.98 FIP, and many other stats that illustrate just how dreadful 2022 has gone for Bradish, such as an average exit velocity of 92.3 MPH, ranking in the 3rd percentile in the league.

Luckily for him, there's still a few lonely souls this deep in the Baseball Savant leaderboards, such as Seranthony Dominguez.

For some more Savant futility, check out the HardHit% leaderboards. Ranked 365th of all 379 qualified pitchers sits Elvin Rodriguez of the Tigers, who's 50 HardHit% helps paint the picture of why his season has been so abysmal to this point in time (11.51 ERA, 1.82 WHIP, 20.1 innings). Yet, to be ranked 365th of 379 pitchers means that 14 more pitchers have to be worse. Let's go four spots down, to 369th, on the board, where we can see, with a HardHit% of 51 exactly, Philadelphia Phillies reliever Seranthony Dominguez!

None of that could possibly make sense, right? Sure, giving up a ton of hard contact isn't an end-all-be-all decider of if you have a good or bad season, but it's generally not a good thing to get hit hard. The farther down you go in hard contact leaderboards, you'll generally find worse pitchers, compared to the top of the leaderboard. So, what kind of dark magic is Seranthony Dominguez pulling off to still be such a dominant arm out of the bullpen?

Part I- The "Batted Ball Event"

First of all, "batted" is a really dumb word.

Anyways, to determine a pitcher's HardHit%, you must divide the amount of hard hits surrendered by a pitcher (defined as a ball hit 95+ MPH) by the number if batted ball events a pitcher has. For example, lets say over 88 batted ball events, you allowed 24 hard hits. That would be good for a HardHit% of 27.3, which would put your level of performance at a rate comparable to J.D. Hammer's August last season (which was better than I remembered. Oh, how I miss him).

So, what is a batted ball event anyways? Well, it's any time the batter hits a ball and it results in something. A foul ball, groundout, triple, sac fly; all would be considered a batted ball event.

Key in on the fact that foul balls are included.

Unfortunately, I was unable to come across somewhere that could distinguish fair or foul balls amongst batted ball events, but that's highly important information. For example, lets say in the prior situation, of your 88 batted ball events, 14 of them were foul balls, and 4 of those fouls were hard hits. That would leave you with 20 fair batted balls in 74 fair batted ball events, good for a HardHit% of 27 flat. You can start to see what kind of a difference something simple like that can make.

But, maybe that's not convincing you yet. After all, if we can't discern how many batted ball events Dominguez has had are foul, how can we really tell if foul balls are or aren't messing with his hard contact rates?

Part II- Barrels

Barrels. Not the kind for storing items in, but the baseball barrel.

A barrel is defined as a ball hit with the right combination of exit velocity and launch angle. Could a barrel include a foul ball? Sure, but your likelihood of that is much lower than just a hard hit ball.

Our player-in-focus, Seranthony Dominguez, has allowed 4 barrels this year. Not that bad, until you realize that he's only had 49 batted ball events this season. As a result, Dominguez is in the middle of the pack but still closer to the bottom in Barrels/BBE% (barrels divided by batted ball events), sitting at 224th with an 8.2 Barrel/BBE%. Still, this is a rather finicky stat, as ranked just one spot above him is Rays starter Drew Rasmussen, who's performed respectably this season.

Dominguez, who ranks in the 39th percentile for Barrel% (same as Barrel/BBE%), isn't egregiously awful in this spot either. But, it's not an inspiring performance either. There has to be something else, right?

Part III- Launch Angles and GB%

Remember when I mentioned that barrels are a mix of launch angle and exit velocity being just right on a hit? Lets focus here on the first part of the equation: launch angle.

An ideal launch angle for a batter is about 15-25 degrees. If you hit the ball hard routinely, being on the higher end of that scale (and a little higher isn't necessarily bad in this case) will translate into home runs and lots of extra-base hits, but this range will at the least provide a lot of hard line drives and such. All the good stuff for scoring runs. All the stuff pitchers want to limit.

Looking at some pitchers with the best launch angles in the league, you run into guys like Clay Holmes and Framber Valdez (1st and 2nd of all qualified pitchers, respectively), both of whom are having fantastic seasons for their respective teams.

So, for pitchers, the more you're under that 15-25 degree launch angle, the better, right? Generally so, anyways. So, where does Seranthony Dominguez rank?

88th of 379, with an 8.7 degree launch angle.

That's good! It's not Mr. -10.7 Degree Launch Angle Clay Holmes, but that's a pretty huge outlier (second ranked Framber Valdez is at -4, and dropping to 10th ranked will land you with Aaron Bummer's 0.3 degree launch angle). Being at an 8.7 degree mark means that generally, batters are hitting pretty low line drives and are hitting more groundballs than line drives and flyballs. Yes, groundballs can still be harmful; a groundball hit hard down the line usually is extra bases, unless a pile of rocks also referred to as Yasmani Grandal is running around the bases, but it's more likely that a groundball will result in an out, whether it's hit 80 MPH off the bat or 800.

Which brings us to GB%. If you guessed that this stat measures the frequency of which a pitcher gets groundballs, well you might happen to be a total genius. Snarky comments aside, a good GB% is usually a pretty big positive. At the top of the list is Mr. Groundball Freakazoid Clay Holmes, at 84.3%, while others in the top include Aaron Ashby (4th, 65.2%), Joe Smith (11th, 61.5%), and Emmanuel Clase (15th, 59.7%).

All of that is cool and all, but again, we're here for Seranthony the Almighty. And he ranks...

96th of 379, with a flat 49 GB%.

Again, that's pretty good! And again, Clay Holmes is just ridiculous, and makes no sense. Perhaps it's here we've found our answer...

Part IV- Conclusion

So, what have we found?

Well, "batted" is a dumb word that cannot be justified to me, a batted ball can include foul balls, which can unfairly affect hard hit rates, Seranthony's barrel rates are OK-ish, and his GB% and launch angle are good.

That's a pretty primitive summary, but it gets all the main points across. Despite the rather worrisome hard contact rates, and uninspiring barrel rates, Dominguez has been one of baseball's best relievers this year, because hard contact staying low and on the ground is pretty much next-to-worthless.

But there's still another thing I haven't mentioned. He's just downright filthy.

He might not be making the rounds on PitchingNinja's Twitter account often, and his 53.7 chase rate is about in the middle of the league, but as the whole point of this article goes, Statcast numbers don't tell the whole story. Dominguez routinely pumps gas, his sinker usage has increased and has seen great results, and his whiff rates sit in the 86th percentile of the league (32.2%). His -7 run value on his sinker (0 is average) gives him one of baseball's best pitches, matching the run values of pitches like Corbin Burnes's curveball, Tony Gonsolin's slider, and Nestor Cortes's 4-seam.

Regardless of literally everything mentioned in the last 1400 words, it's great, and very much so refreshing, to see such a dominant arm in Philly's bullpen. Dominguez's performance this year was a big focal point for fans, and to see him performing at such a high caliber even despite missing roughly two and a half years of regular MLB action is such a wonderful comeback story.

Pat Neshek in 2017 was the last Phillies reliever to see the Midsummer Classic. Five years later, it's about damn time for the next.