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Jacob Webb

Diamondbacks’ reliever who will likely be called up.

Jacob Webb pitched in game 2 of the NLCS.
Jacob Webb pitched in game 2 of the NLCS.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

He was a high ranked prospect.

In December of 2018 Jacob Webb was the 17th best Braves prospect per FanGraphs. Nevertheless, the Braves DFA’d him to recall Jackson Stephens.

“…it is genuinely surprising that the Braves are DFAing Jacob Webb as it certainly seemed like he could be in the mix for a bullpen spot at some point this season.” — Eric Cole of SB Nation

On 19 April, the Diamondbacks claimed Jacob Webb off waivers and optioned him to AAA.

Last season his overall results slumped.

After a stellar debut in 2019 (1.39 ERA in 32.1 innings), he had a bone spur in his elbow removed. A shoulder strain delayed his return in 2020. His results slumped in 2021 (4.19 ERA in 34.1 Innings).

“His 21.6% strikeout rate is a few points below the MLB average, but that belies some excellent swing-and-miss numbers on a per-pitch basis. Webb racked up swinging strikes on 15.6% of his offerings last year, one of the top marks around the league.” — Anthony Franco of MLB Trade Rumors

His performance was excellent in his last call-up.

Last season, he was called up from the minors 8 times. His 1 September call up was much more than a cup of coffee because he pitched in 14 games.

His pitching was outstanding in September and in the NLCS. In September he got the job done in 86.7% of his games (no earned runs allowed and no inherited runners scored). In Game 2 of the NCLS he got the job done contributing an outstanding .27 cWPA (his pitching helped get the Braves to the World Series). In game 5 of the NLCS he did not get the job done, but only lost .05 cWPA (very little negative impact).

Nickname idea. Is your team haunted by ghosts of wasted starter performances? Are your starters ethereal and yet late innings look scary? Who ya gonna call up? Ghost Buster Webb!

He has potential to improve.

Jacob Webb is a middle reliever. His changeup frequency increased from 12.3% in 2019 to 32.7% in 2020 to 46.1% in 2021. Despite having a great September and postseason, last season’s stats show weaknesses in his other two pitches:

  • Last season, his 4-seam fastball had velocity at the 66th percentile and spin at the 86th percentile. It could be an effective pitch. Instead of an effective pitch, with a 2.0 run value per 100 pitches it was relatively his worst pitch.
  • Last season, his curve’s whiff percentage dropped from 38.1% in 2019 and 28.6% in 2020 to 14.1%. On Friday, in the game deciding tenth inning. I watched how hard it was for Diamondbacks to hit reliever Seth Lugo’s curves. Restoring the whiff percentage of Jacob Webb’s curve would be huge.

Can he reduce line drives?

Last season he allowed too many line drives. They increased from 21.1% in 2019 and 16.0% on 2020 to 30.5%.

Line drives are defined by launch angle. In addition to swing angle, what else helps batters hit line drives? Perhaps hitting the baseball as it crosses the plate instead of in front or behind the plate. That idea is indirectly supported by the graphs in this FanGraphs article by Eno Sarris, albeit that his article points out that hitting a homer is ideally 10 inches before the baseball crosses the plate.

It’s not a stretch to say that typically when batters hit line drives they made contact with the baseball as it crossed the plate. Perhaps Jacob Webb could adjust his fastballs and curves to have additional late movement just before they cross the plate, making line drives less likely.

“Though Webb may not have the most electric stuff or highest ceiling, he has shown some potential over the past three years, and his non-fastball offerings are pretty good.” — StatsSAC of SB Nation

He knows his mental game.

In February of 2020, Jacob Webb talked about his mental game. The ideas I heard follow:

Be myself. Know my strengths. Know my weaknesses.

Focus on what I need to do right now. Make sure I do what I need to do.

  • Hone my pitches (release point, timing, and all that good stuff)
  • Mix my pitches
  • Attack the hitter

Try not to overthink too much. Don’t try to overdo things.

Feel good about competition because my accomplishments are more worthwhile when I’m trying to earn something.

“Jacob Webb will almost certainly see time in Atlanta once again [playing for the Diamondbacks] in 2022…” — Garrett Spain of SB Nation