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ASU Baseball: Former Devils Check-Up

We check up on former Devils Kole Calhoun and Merrill Kelly with the Diamondbacks.
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2020 has been odd.. What started as a year of new hopes quickly turned into one that has been tragic and poignant. For former Sun Devils Kole Calhoun and Merrill Kelly, 2020 has been very, very strange, and the season has not been going the way they, or the Diamondbacks, were hoping.

The Diamondbacks are 14-24...Both Calhoun and Kelly have been very….unlucky.

Kole Calhoun is in his first season with the Arizona Diamondbacks after spending his entire career with the Los Angeles Angels. The halfway through his first season has been odd and frustrating. Here is everything Calhoun is doing right: his walk percentage has never been higher, his strikeout percentage has improved from the year prior (thanks in large part to dropping his putaway% on breaking balls by almost 13 percent), his barrel percentage too, has never been higher, he chases out of the zone less, and has an expected weighted on-base percentage of .385 which is also a career-high. 

Baseball Savant has his 2020 equivalents to the likes of MVP candidate Mike Yastrzemski. So why is he hitting .195? His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is somehow 70 points lower than his career average at .198. Now his 25.8% home run to fly ball rate is a bit of a mystery, with 20%ish being considered the peak of what consistency can be in baseball for home run hitters, but Calhoun averaged 22% the year prior.

 Finally, Calhoun has been shifted on the most in his career at 82% but has been performing better with the shift than without. Calhoun has so many statistical inconsistencies I find it hard to believe that something won’t change in the final 22 games.

Right-handed pitcher Merrill Kelly is actually done for the season after five starts. Kelly will be back to 100% in 2021; he successfully had a blood clot dissolved from his right shoulder last week. His weekly start has been missed with the D-backs. 

The 2019 innings eater innovated and became more of an ace (actually like a number 2) more like an ace in 2020. In 31.1 innings, Kelly had an ERA+ of 179, a 19.2 K-BB%, and had his line drive, ground ball, fly ball percentages all go in positive directions. How? Well, humans would say confidence, numbers give you an answer and prove that the small sample size success, five starts, could be replicated next year in a “normal” season.

In 2019 Kelly relied on his fastball almost 40% of the time; in 2020, he threw his four-seamer 15% less and his sinker almost 10% more. The change in pitch type frequency helped improve the rates of four of the five Kelly throws (his cutter actually took large steps back in both whiff and putaway percentages). A more even pitch distribution was only half of what changed for Kelly too. Both vertical and horizontal movements improved.


While this type of movement is still not considered “elite” his changeup and sinker both significantly improved after being considered more of a liability in 2019. Overall, if Kelly can repeat his success he will become the third man in the rotation after Zach Gallen and Madison Bumgarner.