Looking back at his 2021 campaign, and what he was able to accomplish in it, Kyle Finnegan told reporters on Tuesday he was happy he was able to do what he did last season (with a 3.55 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 34 walks, 68 Ks, 11 saves in 15 save opportunities, and a .251/.344/.404 line against in 68 games and 66 innings pitched) while working predominantly with just his sinker, which he threw 68.4% of the time.
Finnegan, 30, mixed in a slider (19.4%) and used a split fastball (12.2%), but for the most part it was his sinking fastball, which sat at 95.6 MPH, and against which opposing hitters put up a .267 AVG.
“I think I was able to use my fastball a lot, more so than most other people’s pitch mixes,” he said in his first press availability of the season from the Washington Nationals’ spring home.
“To be able to be fastball-heavy in a league that hits the fastball very well, and still have some success was good, but I definitely want to work on my offspeed, and use it more, throwing both offspeed pitches, the splitter and the slider to both right-handed and left-handed [hitters] and start to locate it more, throwing sliders for strikes, not just swing and miss, and then using that to complement the fastball approach.”
We only have two major league seasons to go on for the righty, who was drafted by the A’s in the 6th Round in 2013 and signed by the Nats to a major league deal after spending six seasons in Oakland’s system without making it to the big leagues, but his sinker usage was pretty much the same (68.4%, again, up from 70.2 in ‘21), as was his slider (19.4% in ‘21, 20.8 in ‘20), with a slight increase in the percentage of splitters he threw (8.8% in ‘20 to 12.2%).
“I would say I use it almost every outing I’ve probably thrown it,” he said of his splitter, “and it’s something — I think talking with our analytics team it’s a pitch that maybe plays better than my usage,” Finnegan explained, “so maybe kind of nudge myself in that direction to use it a little more and see if I can get some more success and get people off the fastball, because that’s my go-to [pitch].
“So, giving them something else to think about will help the fastball.”
Finnegan’s total of 66 IP in 2021, was a significant increase from the 24 2⁄3 IP during 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign, but he’s been up to that level before in a minor league season, both as a starter and after converting to mostly relief work with the A’s in ‘16, so he wasn’t exactly in uncharted territory in terms of his workload though he did jump up a bit last season.
With the time off over the winter, however, he said he felt fine now and was ready to get back at it.
“Status quo really,” he said of his offseason work, “just took some time to relax from the get-go, let everything calm down, get the body back to center, and then I started my workouts and everything probably two weeks after the season ended, so I really like to jump right back into it because I enjoy the training portion of it, so I’m always excited to get back to it.”
While he served as the team’s closer for a time last summer, with mixed results, he’s not sure where he is going to pitch this season, other than it’s likely to be in the late innings.
“I think it will be in the back of the bullpen somewhere,” he said. “I haven’t been given a role of any type, so my focus right now is just getting my body and my arm where it needs to be and working on pitches and fine-tuning, and I don’t know that it really matters much to me, because no matter what I’m going to be doing the same things to get myself ready to go, so that’s really where my focus is right now.”
Now that he’s been through a full major league season, he also knows what to expect going in and can take what he’s learned in the last two years, apply it, and hopefully improve.
“I think you just learn more about yourself, what exactly you need to get ready, and you can kind of really hone in on that routine,” he said, “cause that’s a huge part of it is just getting your body feeling good every day so you’re able to perform on the field, so I’m just — I’m taking things that helped me last year, and things that maybe I can improve on and just trying to perfect that routine, and staying up to date with the training staff, going in there and just anything that will help recovery or getting your body right will pay dividends in the long-run when we get into the dog days of the end of the season.”