Pittsburgh Pirates: Jose Osuna is Crushing Fastballs


Along with providing versatility on defense, Jose Osuna has provided a strong bat for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. He has earned himself a roster spot next season, but how has he been doing it?

It has been a rocky road to this point in Pittsburgh Pirate Jose Osuna‘s young career, however, he may have finally found his role. The hard-swinging right-handed Osuna has always exhibited his raw power at the MLB level entering the 2019 season with 10 home runs and a .187 ISO spread out over 338 PA, with the bulk of that production coming in 2017.

While Osuna has shown flashes of a strong big-league bat, he has never really turned the corner until this season. This season he has a career-best stat line of .261/.305/.502 to go with a 104 wRC+ in 221 PAs this season. His .241 ISO is second on the time behind only Josh Bell, and his wRC+ is the 5th best. This is where he’s at despite a horrid start to September.

Osuna’s production this season represents what we saw from him in his rookie season. The only difference is Osuna is experiencing more of a platoon/partly everyday role instead of merely a pinch-hitter, starting in over half of his appearances in 2019 versus just 40% in 2017.

In both seasons, however, Osuna crushed the fastball. In 2017, Osuna faced fastballs across 127 PA and batted .286 with 5 HRs and 10 doubles good enough for a .361 wOBA. He lost that production in 2018, batting just .216 with a .309 wOBA over 54 PA. This season he’s better than ever.

Entering play on Thursday, Osuna had 105 PA against fastballs this season and a .276 BA to go with 7 HRs and 8 doubles, all good for a .375 wOBA. And its been well-deserved, according to Statcast data, as his xwOBA is at .377, up 50 points from a season ago. 8 of his 10 barrels have come on fastballs, 7 of which have been home runs.

Maybe this can be a warning to pitchers: don’t throw a fastball to Osuna in the zone. It won’t end pretty. Last year, Osuna was outmatched and overpowered by fastballs. Against fastballs in the zone, he had just a .285 wOBA and only one HR in 37 PA. Fast forward to this season and its a completely different story, posting a .445 wOBA to go with 6 home runs in 66 PA.

Now, its one thing for a hitter to be good against fastballs. Every good hitter in the MLB is strong against the fastball. Osuna is doing more than just ripping fastballs, he’s also improving against off speed and breaking pitches. Last season he had no home runs in 44 PA against breaking balls, but this season he has 3.

He’s also improved his exit velocity versus off speed pitches, ranging on average around 93.6mph versus just 82.5 last season. He’s also raised his wOBA from .313 versus offsets and .225 versus breaking balls to .329 and .273 respectively.

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Osuna is managing to crush fastballs and is constantly improving against off speed and breaking pitches. It’s helped Osuna take the next step at the MLB level and earn a role in 2020. Whether it be at third or right, or both, look for Osuna to make an impact next season.