Has The Indians Power Lefty Finally Put It All Together?
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It was always said that if Nick Hagadone could learn to control his arsenal that he could develop into one of the better relievers in baseball.
Armed with a 95 mile per hour fastball and a wipe-out slider that generates plenty of swings and misses but it’s his inability to find home plate that has kept him on the shuttle between the Cleveland Indians and their Triple-A affiliate Columbus Clippers.
In 2014 the Tribe got their first extended look at just how dominant he can be when he can control his arsenal. He appeared in 35 games for the Indians logging 23.1 innings. He struck out more than a batter per inning (27) and issued just four non-intentional walks while holding the opposition to a .214 batting average against (18 for 84) and posting an ERA of 2.70 (7ER/23.1IP).
Hagadone’s Filthy Arsenal
Entering spring training it was uncertain whether or not the Indians held a player-option on Hagadone. After giving up a pair of runs in two-thirds of an inning on July 8, 2012 he exited the game and punched a wall which resulted in needing surgery for a fractured forearm. The Indians deemed the injury self-inflicted injury and sent him to the Columbus Clippers and placed him on the disqualified list where he was ineligible to be paid or receive service time.
The Major League Players Union filed a grievance against the Indians on his behalf which was finally settled prior to opening spring training this season. The settlement included Hagadone receiving full service time and compensation from the 2012 season and the Indians were able to regain the player-option they used when they sent him to Columbus.
The Indians took full advantage of the player option adding him to the roster four times during the season.
He first was recalled on May 3rd to replace Elliot Johnson who was designated for assignment but before he could appear in a game injuries to Michael Bourn, Jason Giambi, and Jason Kipnis led the Indians to summon Nyjer Morgan from Columbus and he was on his way back to Triple-A.
On June 2nd he returned to the Indians replacing right-hander Mark Lowe. He was specifically called up to give the team a third lefty in the pen as they prepared to take on the Boston Red Sox. He had also seemed to have turned a corner with the Clippers. In his seven appearances leading up to the Red Sox series he had pitched 9 1/3 scoreless innings on four hits, with 17 strikeouts and one walk. He appeared in five games with the Tribe working 2.1 innings allowing two runs on four hits striking out four and walking two.
It was his appearance on July 6th against the Red Sox that serves special notice for Hagadone. He entered the game with the Tribe trailing the Red Sox 3-2 lead and lefty Jackie Bradley Jr. due up with a runner at third and two men out.
He walked Bradley on four pitches, allowed him to steal second base, and then come in to score on a Brock Holt double that put the Red Sox up 5-2. After the game Indians manager Tito Francona said, ‘”I thought it was a perfect situation for Hags,” Francona said. “It worked out about as bad as it could. That’s not how we drew it up.” After the game Hagadone was dispatched to Columbus replaced by lefty Kyle Crockett.
After sending Hagadone down Francona delivered a message to his lefty. “In there, is a good pitcher and a guy that has pretty special stuff,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Hagadone. “We desperately want to tap into that. … This is not cutting the cord. This is not giving up. When Hags is in our bullpen pitching like he can pitch, we’re going to be a better team.”
“We want it to be a situation where, when he comes to the big leagues, he can help us win games,” Francona said. “He was on a roll in Triple-A and his first couple games here he really helped us. Then, it seemed to be going the other way, even in his mind. So, we want to try to help him get over some hurdles, whether it’s anxiety or however you want to put it.”
Maybe Francona’s words helped soothe some of the anxiety that Hagadone had been battling? After a brief three day stint with the Indians from June 25 through June 28 (one appearance 0.2 innings) he returned to the Tribe for good on July 8th.
After his final recall he appeared in 29 games posting a 2.21 ERA (5ER/20.1IP) while holding the opposition to a batting average against of just .197. During the period he struck out 23 batters while only issuing two non-intentional walks.
Over the course of the season Hagadone was equally efficient against right handed batters holding them to a slash line of .211/250/.395 spanning 4o plate appearances as he was against left handed batters who he held to .211/.250/.395.
If Hagadone has in fact learned to harness the power fastball and wipe out slider and has the ability to get both left handers and right handers out the next step is for him to work more high leverage situations. According to Baseball-Reference.com he has a average leverage index (aLI) of .909. A aLI of greater than one signifies high pressure situations and less than one denotes low pressure. It should be noted that the .909 aLI is a career high and up considerably from 2013 (0.679).
The only question surrounding Hagadone this offseason is whether he is getting the opportunity to work higher leverage situations with the Indians or does the lack of potent left handed relievers on the free agent market make him a valuable trade chip?