The Brewers announced a slew of moves Wednesday, one of which that they had designated both Dinelson Lamet and Pedro Severino for assignment. Even though Lamet has had a very rough season in a full-time relief role, the move to DFA him was a surprise because he had just been acquired Monday from the Padres in the trade that sent Josh Hader to San Diego.
“Dinelson has a good arm and was included in the trade to help balance out the deal,” Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns explained. “As subsequent transactions played out, the roster fit became a little tougher. We are hopeful we will be able to keep him in our system.”
If they aren’t able to keep the righty in their system, however, I’d love for the Cubs to grab him and see if a little tweakage might be able to get him going again. Lamet’s 9.49 ERA is very ugly and he’s pitched only 12.1 innings over 13 spotty MLB appearances while bouncing back and forth from Triple-A, so I can see why some might think he’s simply lost it. But what’s the risk at this point for a team that isn’t contending and that has demonstrated a need for pitchers who get whiffs?
Ed. note: If you’re feeling some déjà vu, it might stem form the fact that Lamet was discussed as part of a potential Javier Báez swap with the Padres several years ago.
The slide started last season, when a combination of injuries and acquisitions forced him to the bullpen. After putting up a 3.67 ERA and 3.52 FIP over his first 11 appearances, Lamet was on the IL for just over two months and finished with a 6.39 ERA and 5.06 FIP over his last 11 outings. The big difference is that he made nine starts and threw 34.1 innings in that first sample, but totaled just 12.2 innings of relief in the latter. Working in the ‘pen might be good for some pitchers, but it doesn’t seem to agree with Lamet.
This is a guy who had one of the most elite sliders in the game over the first four years of his career, posting a mark of 52.1 runs saved that ranks fifth in that time. Only Max Scherzer (83.4), Clayton Kershaw (75.5), Jacob deGrom (66.1), and Patrick Corbin (58.9) were better. Lamet throws the slider a lot, which might be part of the problem this season, and he’s also a two-pitch guy at this point after virtually eliminating his sinker.
He’s still got mid-90s fastball velocity and he just turned 30 in July, so there’s no reason to believe Father Time has already caught him. The real issue appears to be that he’s too predictable with the breaking ball and isn’t getting nearly as many swings on pitches out of the zone. He’s getting more swinging strings than ever on a percentage basis and hitters are making less contact, but he is also benefiting from fewer called strikes because they’re just not chasing.
As simple as it seems to say that a little work on sequencing and perhaps better targeting that slider to disguise it or keep it closer to the zone would help. Maybe a little cognitive recalibration with a new team aids that. Whatever it is, I really don’t think this guy is nearly as bad as what his numbers show. Now that I’ve said that, watch him accept his assignment and start shoving for the Brewers.