Cleveland Indians: Dan Otero Has Re-emerged as a Lethal Bullpen Weapon

Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

A former relief ace who fell from grace has rediscovered his past form with the Cleveland Indians

When the Cleveland Indians acquired Dan Otero this past winter, he was looking for a fresh start. 2015 had been a rough season for the right-hander. The groundball specialist saw his groundball rate from excellent to average, and he struggled to keep the ball in the yard. In just 45 innings, Otero allowed 64 hits and a staggering 35 runs. 

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This was quite the change from his previous few seasons. After being called up from the Oakland Athletics’ Triple-A affiliate in early 2013, Otero posted two straight seasons with a sub-three earned run averages. While strikeouts were never his specialty, he minimized walks and kept the ball on the ground with his highly effective sinker. During those two seasons, he was one of baseball’s best-kept secrets and a steal for the A’s.

Now with the Indians, Otero has re-emerged as a lethal bullpen weapon. In an admittedly small sample size of 15 innings, the 31-year-old has allowed just two runs on 13 hits, three walks, and no home runs. Interestingly enough, he has increased his strikeout rate, which now nearly matches the league rate.

The real key to his success has been his sinker. The sinker comes with pretty much average velocity, but its natural sinking action and clear run makes it an elite groundball generator. In fact, Dan Otero has the 11th highest groundball rate among all the relievers in the American League, and PITCHf/x rates his sinker as the second best among all qualified relievers.

As great as Otero’s groundball-inducing ways may be, the problem of low strikeout totals still exists. Fielder independent statistics all take slightly less optimistic views of his work but still label him as an elite reliever. SIERA, FIP, and xFIP – advanced statistics that estimate run prevention with batted ball data, strikeouts, and walks – all value his work with an earned run average in the twos or low threes.

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Certainly, this is not as peachy as a sub-two earned run average, but it would still make him an invaluable member of the Tribe’s bullpen. And for a pitcher who looked destined for the pitiful Philadelphia Phillies or the minor leagues, that is quite the turnaround.