Edwin Diaz's resurgence fueled by 'best breaking pitch' in MLB

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By Audacy

The deal that brought Edwin Diaz to the New York Mets will be the subject of debate for years to come.

But for this season at least, the Mets have to feel pretty good about it -- even when taking into account their unceremonious release of Robinson Cano.

That's because Diaz is reclaiming the mantle as one of baseball's most dominant relief pitchers -- if not the most dominant. This after three up-and-down seasons as the Amazin's closer.

So what is the difference between this version of Diaz, and the one we saw in 2019-2021?

According to a recent Fangraphs article, it may be as simple as pitch mix.

Diaz boasts an overwhelming fastball that sits in the high 90s, as well as a knockout slider that writer Ben Clemens deems "the best breaking pitch" in all of baseball.

Diaz and the Mets seem to be aware of it, too, because he's throwing more sliders than ever before -- and even more sliders than fastballs -- per Clemens.

"There's no doubt it: the slider is the better of Diaz's two pitches," according to Clemens. "This year, he's leaning into it.

"Since the start of June ... Diaz has thrown 60% sliders and 40% fastballs. Why wouldn't he? The results speak for themselves; he's running a 28.1% swinging strike rate on the pitch this year, a number that I frankly have trouble wrapping my mind around."

Opposing batters are seemingly helpless against Diaz's slider, often swinging at ones out of the zone and taking ones in the zone. Even when they swing at the right one, they often miss or make weak contact.

The result is the highest strikeout rate of Diaz's career, at a whopping 17.82 K/9 entering Friday's action. His 1.89 ERA is actually a tick higher than his 1.87 xERA and 1.48 FIP, and SIERA likes him even more, coming in at a minuscule 1.28.

While former top prospect Jarred Kelenic -- whom the Mets surrendered in the Diaz/Cano trade -- languishes in the minor leagues following his second career demotion, Diaz is enjoying his finest season so far for the first-place Mets.

With the Amazin's fighting through a relative down period for both their lineup and starting rotation of late -- all while the Braves have gotten back into playoff contention with a blistering hot streak -- Diaz's steady dominance has been much-needed.

Per Clemens:

"But right now, the Mets badly need someone to nail down their slim leads, and you can make the case they have the best closer in the game to do just that. You can argue about the cost, and you can argue about the contracts, but put it this way: the Mets simply wouldn't have been able to acquire a better closer than Diaz, regardless of cost."