The Perplexing Case Of Dario Agrazal


Dario Agrazal’s MLB career is off to a great start for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but is his success sustainable

When the season start, Dario Agrazal was at best 10th on the Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation depth chart. In fact, he did not even start the season with Triple-A Indianapolis. Agrazal started the  2019 season at the Double-A level.

For him to see MLB action, at least as a starter and in a non-spot start role, this season a lot was going to have to go wrong for the Pirates. Well, just about everything that can go wrong with the Pirate pitching staff this season has.

A combination of injuries and ineffectiveness led to Agrazal getting an opportunity with the Pirates. Agrazal’s effective pitching at both Double-A and, after his promotion, Triple-A were factors as well. All of this led to him making his MLB debut at Marlins Stadium in Miami on June 15th.

Agrazal has now made four starts for the Pirates and has been a pleasant surprise for the Bucs. In these four starts he has pitched 22 innings, posting a 2.45 ERA. Furthermore, the Pirates are 3-1 in these four games. He has also gone 6 innings in each of his last three starts, including pitching into the 7th in his most recent outing.

While Agrazal’s ERA is strong, his FIP is 5.71. This indicates that he has not pitched as well as his ERA would indicate. A big reason for this is due to an inability to generate strikeouts. Through his first 22 MLB innings, Agrazal has struck out just 7.6% of batters faced.

Sustainable success is not something a MLB pitcher can typically find while owning just a 7.6% strikeout rate. Agrazal’s control numbers have been strong as his walk rate is a strong 8.7%. However, without more strikeouts it is tough to envision Agrazal’s success continuing.

That said, Agrazal has done a great job of inducing poor contact. His hard contact rate of 25.3% is lower than league average. Opposing batters own an average exit velocity of just 85.8 MPH off of Agrazal, which is also lower than league average.

This is what makes Agrazal a perplexing case.

Agrazal is also generating a whiff rate of just 13.6% this season. Typically, a pitcher struggling to generate swings-and-misses and strikeouts is on the fast track to poor results. However, most pitchers that fail to do this do not induce as much poor contact as Agrazal does.

Additionally, low strikeout numbers are nothing new to Agrazal. In the minor leagues he never posted a strikeout rate higher than 19.8%. In five of his seven minor league seasons his strikeout rate was below 15%. Despite this, he always posted strong numbers during his rise through the Pirates system.

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Dario Agrazal has become a perplexing case for the Pirates. While he does generate the amount of swings-and-misses typically required to succeed at the MLB level, he has done nothing but induce poor contact and get good results for the Pirates. Aided by a power sinker and four-seamed fastball that each have been among the best in the league in terms of movement and break since his MLB debut, Agrazal owns a sparkling 2.45 ERA. As the final 10 weeks of the 2019 season unfold, it will be interesting to watch what happens with Agrazal.