Edwin Diaz is a two-pitch pitcher who has been operating without his quality slider for the majority of this season. With some help from Jacob deGrom, though, it seems like Diaz might be getting his slider back.
Mets pitching coach Phil Regan said last week that Diaz was close to rediscovering his slider, and manager Mickey Callaway said after Wednesday's outing that it was the best he had ever seen Diaz -- adding that he is now using deGrom's slider grip.
Diaz struck out the side during his appearance Wednesday night, getting Jason Heyward, Nicholas Castellanos, and Kris Bryant all swinging.
Of the 13 pitches he threw on Wednesday, Diaz unleashed seven sliders -- using the pitch to get strike three against Heyward and Bryant. Diaz fanned Bryant on three pitches -- all sliders -- getting a called strike, then a foul, and then a swinging strike.
"I think going forward, if I can throw my slider the way that I was throwing it tonight, I think I can have a lot of success," Diaz said through an interpreter after the game, according to Greg Joyce of the New York Post. "The last five, six or seven outings I've had, my slider has been there."
Since learning the grip from deGrom, Diaz has looked a lot better, and he said Wednesday night that he is now gripping the slider tighter and has been able to locate it better.
Over his last six appearances (including four hit-less outings), Diaz has allowed two runs on two htis in 4.2 innings while striking out 10 and walking three. Both of those runs came on Saturday night against the Braves.
Diaz almost completely losing the ability to throw a plus slider this season was baffling, and is the same issue that plagued Noah Syndergaard for basically the entire first half of the season.
One potential reason for the slider issues both pitchers dealt with could be the new ball, which is slicker, has lower seams, and is tougher to grip -- with Syndergaard saying earlier this season that the baseballs felt like "ice cubes."
While Diaz' slider wasn't moving the way it usually does earlier this season and he was having trouble locating it, he kept throwing it -- because he had to. As good as Diaz' fastball is, he needed to keep hitters honest by mixing in his slider so they couldn't simply sit on the fastball. And the results of continuing to throw the at-the-time-ineffective slider were often disastrous.
But with a tighter grip on the slider now and the pitch baffling hitters in games again, Diaz might have finally found a solution -- much like Syndergaard did. And if Diaz is able to regularly feature a slider like the one he used on Wednesday night, he could start to resemble the pitcher who was the most dominant reliever in the majors in 2018.