After struggling in the first three years of his MLB career, it appears that Dovydas Neverauskas is turning a corner for the Pittsburgh Pirates
Since making his MLB debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2017, Dovydas Neverauskas has driven Pirate fans mad. Through the first 61.2 inning pitched of his career, Neverauskas allowed 15 home runs, he walked 9.0% of batters faced and struck out 19.5%. All of this led to him posting a 6.71 ERA and a 5.99 FIP in those 61.2 innings worked.
Due to his struggles, many fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates had given up on Neverauskas entering the 2020 season. This is despite Neverauskas having always had the stuff to be a successful MLB reliever, he had just never put it all together.
Thanks in part to him being out of minor league options and thanks in part to rosters being expanded, Neverauskas made the Opening Day roster for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Thus far, he has taken the opportunity and run with it and it appears the work he has done with new pitching coach Oscar Marin is paying off.
So far in 2020, Neverauskas has looked like a completely different pitcher. After throwing it 20.8% of the time in 2019, Neverauskas has thrown his cutter 56.0% of the time this season. Additionally, his four-seamed fastball usage has dropped from 56.5% to 42.7%. This change in pitching repertoire appears to be paying off for Neverauskas.
Neverauskas has logged 5.1 innings of work for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. He has allowed just five hits, walked a pair and struck out six. The lone run he allowed was an unearned run, because it came in the 11th inning of a game against the Brewers and only scored due to the ridiculous runner on second to start extra innings rule.
In addition to his 0.00 ERA, Neverauskas owns a sparkling 1.91 FIP this season. He has done an excellent job limiting quality contact by opposing batters. Just 25.0% of the balls put in play against Neverasukas have qualified as hard contact, the league average is 38.5%. Also, opposing batters own an average exit velocity of 88.2 MPH off of his pitches, the league average is 89.9 MPH.
What might be most incredible is that Neverauskas is doing this despite a .357 batting average on balls in play. A .300 BAbip is considered league average. So, according to his BAbip, Neverauskas has been burnt by bad luck this season. This means he could have positive regression in his future.
The whiff rate on his cutter has jumped from 18.5% last season to 36.4% this season. This is a big reason why opposing batters have just a .154 batting average and slugging percentage off of the pitch this season. Furthermore, his spin rate has jumped from 2325 in 2019 to 2701 in 2020. His fastball spin rate has also experienced a jump this season going from 2276 to 2371. Whatever it is Marin and Neverauskas are doing, it is working.
Has Neverauskas turned a corner? That has yet to be seen. However, the early results in 2020 have been good. It appears possible that Marin has tapped into the potential Neverauskas and now has him emerging as a key cog in the Pirate bullpen.