Los Angeles Angels right-handed reliever Aaron Slegers is anything but an ordinary major league pitcher. He stands at 6’10” tall, one of the tallest to ever play the game, but he pitches with pure finesse. Slegers will never blow a fastball by a batter. In fact, he likely won’t even strike a batter out.
In 61.1 career innings pitched, Slegers has just 38 strikeouts, which gives him a career K/9 figure of 5.6. In 2019 — the last full regular season — this K/9 number would rank 708th among all pitchers to see at least one inning that year. Despite that, he is finding success with the Angels. In 2021, he has pitched 3.1 innings and has struck out only four batters, but has given up zero runs.
This is all intentional by Slegers, who believes that giving batters a look they’ve never seen before is what helps him play his best on the mound, according to J.P. Hoornstra of The O.C. Register:
“Big league hitters are creatures of familiarity,” Slegers said. “They like seeing the same thing over and over again. They’re the best in the world at making adjustments with their swing. And because I provide such a unique look, with the balls coming at a different angle – I hide the ball well, I’m not showing the ball early, I’m releasing it close to (the hitter) – all these things add up to an outlier look for a right-handed pitcher. That really allows me to pound the strike zone and use that to my advantage, and not let a hitter get comfortable.”
Angels manager Joe Maddon complimented Slegers’ approach, saying that forcing weak contact is an art form by itself.
“I’ve been around a staff with the Cubs going to the (2016) World Series, a lot of contact, but weak contact,” he said. “Stay away from the barrel. That’s an art form in and of itself.”
At his current pace, Slegers will easily clear his record for highest K/9 in his career. However, he’s still striking people out at a lower pace than the average, using an approach that simply doesn’t match his towering frame.
The numbers are backing this up as well, as Slegers is allowing an average exit velocity of 81.6 mph early this season, ranking in the top 6% of all pitchers according to Statcast.
It’s this pitching style that allowed Slegers to take the eighth and final bullpen slot in the days before the season began. Through the first segment of games, it appears to be a great choice by Maddon and the Angels decision makers.
Angels go 4-2 on opening homestand
The Angels began their season with a six-game homestand against the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros, both of whom projected to be among the best in the American League. Despite that, the Angels played excellent baseball and finished 4-2.