Coffee and Ramblings: Tommy Henry and Dbacks Pitching.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Preface: I'm just putting thoughts on paper here. Not meant to be grammatically correct or technically pretty. I'll be discussing Tommy Henry and what we've seen out of him so far. I'll leave the actual writing to the professionals.

I like pitching. I like watching big loopy curveballs, tight sliders, and seeing triple digits on the gun. Unfortunately, as a Diamondbacks fan, I haven’t been able to see much of that over the last few years.

This can be a discussion for another post, but the Dbacks have done a poor job of developing pitching over the past few years. Since 2018 (Dbacks last made the playoffs in 2017), we are in the bottom third (link) of the league in SP WAR, and 29th out of 30 in RP WAR with only 2.7 (link). You are reading that correctly. Since 2018, the Dbacks have only gotten 2.7 WAR out of their relievers. In comparison, the Yankees have gotten 29.5. So, I’d love to see the Dbacks stop signing 40-year-old relievers to 20-million-dollar contracts and maybe start giving their starters who fail a chance in the pen. But I digress.

On August 3rd, 2022, the Diamondbacks selected the contract of left-hander Tommy Henry. To me, this is significant because of the previously mentioned statistics. Any pitcher who has a shot at being league average should be celebrated by us. Since August 3rd, we’ve gotten 4 starts out of him with a 3.57 ERA and a 2-2 record. Not bad for surface level results. Lets start by taking a peak at FanGraphs scouting report.

"Henry's velocity gains from previous seasons held over a full campaign in Double-A. While some of the surface-level numbers look a bit ugly, he held his own in Amarillo's homer-happy ballpark, which is no small feet for a guy essentially jumping from college to Double-A. Despite pedestrian velocity, ol' No. 1 plays well at the top of the zone because he gets great extension and creates a flat angle that's tricky for hitters to pick up. The fading change flashes plus and is probably his best secondary, though his sweeping slider missed plenty of bats last season and gives him a viable secondary weapon against lefties. The curve is more of a strike-stealer than a bat-misser, but he does have some feel for dropping it in the zone on his glove side. He's more wild than you'd like from a guy with this profile, so while a No. 4 starter is a reasonable ceiling here, Henry will need to throw more strikes to reach it."

So, we should be looking at a soft-tossing lefty with a fastball that plays, a plus changeup, average slider, and probably doesn’t have the greatest control/command. Let’s look at the numbers and see what we’re dealing with. A few charts below:

































Brief note, K% below average, BB% below average, low BABIP and average swinging strikes.









The fastball is slow relative to league average, as Tommy has maxed out at 93.9, but averages 91.7. The spin rate on the heater is also below average. So below average velo, below average spin, we’d think the fastball isn’t that great. And the numbers agree, as it has been pretty average at -0.27 wFB/C (fastball wins above average/per 100 pitches). On the plus side, he gets some great extension and falls in the 72nd percentile, perhaps allowing that heater to appear a little bit faster and play well in certain scenarios as Longenhagen suggests.

The slider is a very interesting pitch to me. It’s registered as slightly below average (-0.72 wSL/C) but he seems to have great control with this pitch as he throws it in the zone more often than his fastball. He also throws it hard compared to his fastball velocity, averaging 86 on it. It’s not a swing and miss pitch, it actually gets less whiffs than his fastball. It gets significantly less vertical and horizontal movement than league average sliders. I know its been said that Brent Strom tweaked the grip on the slider, and the vertical movement appears to have changed a little bit from his first start. We’ll have to wait and see because right now I’m thinking this pitch is treated like a cutter by Henry, just based on the amount of counts he throws it in (both hitter and pitcher counts) and how often he throws the pitch within the strike zone. The slider is even more trusted by him against lefties, throwing it 30% of the time vs. lefties

If anyone reads the FanGraphs report, one will think the curveball wouldn’t be that great of a pitch, but it has been Henry’s best pitch to date. The movement profile is nothing to write home about, but his wCU/C is 1.89 and he throws it for a strike the most out of any of his pitches. As Longenhagen refers to in his write-up, he drops this pitch in for a first strike frequently, especially against righties (a whopping 27% of the time!). Not sure how long righties will let that continue going unpunished, but he clearly likes doing it.

I’m gonna wrap this up because it’s a Saturday and I want to have a beer. The changeup is supposed to be his best secondary, and we know that hasn’t been the case so far (0.2 wCH/C which is still above average). Movement wise it seems good. Above average drop and average horizontal movement. Barely used versus lefties and is almost solely a righty weapon.

So he’s got a righty weapon in the slider, a lefty weapon in the change, a curveball that’s been effective, and a fastball. Unfortunately, there’s really nothing here to brag about in his arsenal. He’s not striking people out, he’s walking too many, is getting babip lucky, and has a 4.99 xFIP screaming regression in his face. Unless there’s some significant change, I’m thinking a number 5 might be the ceiling here. But hey, he's young, he's been okay. Last start looked pretty good with the 7K's. We take the wins where we can.

Now, I will say this, give him the year in the rotation. There’s no one else he’s taking valuable innings from. Let him play with his grips and release points (off topic he has a VERY consistent release point among his pitches). If he doesn’t do that well, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not trade him. Give him a shot in the pen. Maybe he can average 93 and use the curve and just be a two pitch MIRP. The Dbacks need to start doing something in regards to pitching, and trading away every starting pitcher (ehm banda, duplantier) who doesn’t have instant success is not a winning strategy. Keep the cheap, former starters in the pen and see what they can do. We haven’t had a good reliever since Archie Bradley, and he was a former starter.

Aside from Keuchel, Brent Stroms reclamation projects have all thrown 98 with nasty off-speed. The Dbacks don’t seek out guys like that, so I don’t see any sort of diamond in the roughs coming out of nowhere with this team.

Disclaimer: I apologize if I say anything wrong in this. Just a rambling. Feel free to correct me in the comment and ask me for sources. I'll be rambling about Stone Garrett next!