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2023 Season in Review: Seranthony Domínguez

And don’t call me Ser-ley.

MLB: NLCS-Philadelphia Phillies at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Pitching is a tough job, and a strange one. You can throw the same pitches, at the same speeds, at the same rates, as you did the year before, and get different results. Some of that might just be variance. But if you pride yourself on your arm and your ability to shut down a side, you’re not going to shrug and hope the winds blow back in your direction. The facts are these: in 2023, Seranthony Domínguez threw pitches just like he did in 2022: same mix, same velocities. And in 2023, his stats were significantly worse than they were the year before. What happened?

2023 Stats: 57 G, 50 IP, 3.78 ERA, 1.4 WHIP, 21.4 K%, 9.8 BB%, fWAR 0.1

The Good:

Few threw the ball harder than Domínguez (97.7 average fastball velocity, putting him in the 95th percentile) and few hit it hard against him (he ranked in the 94th percentile for hard hit percentage, and the 96th for average exit velocity allowed). And he was able to shoulder his typical workload, pitching 50 innings, despite dealing with a midseason oblique injury.

Domínguez improved as the season went on, producing a 3.13 ERA and 1.22 WHIP post All-Star Break, as compared to a 4.33 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP prior to it. A late-season adjustment to his setup, with the assistance of pitching coach Caleb Cotham, helped him gain some control back.

The Bad:

Domínguez threw his fastball hard in 2023, but the pitch didn’t get the results he saw in 2022. He allowed a batting average of .222 and a slugging percentage of .361 with it, as compared to .161/.268 with the same pitch a year before. The disparities were even greater for his sinker (2023: .317/.429, 2022: .206/324) and changeup (2023: .375/500, 2022 .143/.143). Only his slider avoided a decline. Some worse BABIP luck (.291 in 2023 vs. .269 in 2022) can explain part of this, but not all of it.

With 2 of his three primary pitches (the changeup is a bit player in his arsenal) lacking their previous effectiveness, Domínguez struggled to get batters out at his usual clip. He struck out a career-low 21.4% of batters faced, down over 8% from 2022, and down over 10% from his career-best. His walk rate wasn’t exceptional, either in comparison to the rest of the league or to his previous numbers. He avoided a career-worst ERA, but that may have been more luck than anything else; his xERA in 2023 was 4.67, compared to a previous career high of 3.36.

As for that impressive hard hit percentage, it doesn’t seem to mean too much. In 2022 Domínguez ranked in the bottom 5% of the league in that statistic, but nevertheless performed better than he did in 2023. It’s a nice badge of honor on his 2023 Baseball Savant page, but that’s about it.

The Future:

Domínguez is in the last year of his contract, although he has a team option for 2025. He’ll maintain his role as a regular presence in the bullpen, and the Phillies will hope that 2023 was a blip rather than a new normal. More Ks are just what the doctor ordered, and Domínguez will surely try some tweaks to ensure that the trend from the second half of 2023 continues into his 2024. With all three of his primary pitches trending down in performance from 2022, an adjustment to something fundamental to his approach may be in order. While his 2023 raises some uncomfortable questions, he still projects to contribute significantly out of the pen, and will be a familiar face in Citizens Bank Park once again.