Based on reporting by the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Bobby Nightengale, reliever Derek Law has been told by the Reds that he has made the team’s Opening Day roster. The Reds had signed Law to a minor league deal on August 14 last summer, a week after he had been released by the Detroit Tigers. He made 15 appearances for David Bell’s club, all in September. The Reds declined to offer Law arbitration (“non-tender”) in November. In January, they were able to re-sign the 32-year-old to another minor league deal.
Law’s Baseball Background
The San Francisco Giants selected Derek Law in the 9th round of the 2011 draft out of Miami Dade College. Combining the minors and majors, he’s pitched in over 400 games, all but a handful as a reliever. From 2011 to 2016 he worked his way through the Giants farm system. Law’s major league debut came in early 2016, a season he pitched in 61 games for San Francisco. The next two seasons, Law split time between the Giants’ Triple-A club and the majors.
San Francisco DFA’d Law at the end of 2018. The Giants were able to trade him to Toronto where he appeared in 58 games for the Blue Jays in 2019. Toronto declined to sign him for the next season. The Texas Rangers signed him in 2020 and assigned him to their alternate site. Texas released him at the end of 2020. The Minnesota Twins signed him for the 2021 season but DFA’d him in May. There were no takers and Law chose to say with the Twins, who released him again that November.
Law chose free agency and remained unsigned through spring training when the Tigers called. That made his 2022 stop Detroit. He pitched in the minors until late July, made two starts for the Tigers and was released. That’s when the Reds picked him up.
“Honestly, I’ve never signed back with a team that I’ve been with,” said Law (Nightengale), reflecting on the recent news he’d return to the Reds.
In his 193 major league appearances spread among five organizations, Derek Law’s ERA was 4.21. His strikeout rate was 22% and walk rate 10%.
2022 with the Reds
After being acquired by the Reds on August 14, Derek Law pitched in six games for the Triple-A Louisville Bats. In eight innings he struck out three batters and walked three. Law gave up one run and four hits.
Law received a September call-up and appeared in 15 games for the Reds. Facing 79 batters, he struck out 15 (19%), walked seven (9%) and hit one. His ERA was 4.08 and xFIP 4.11. Law’s xERA (expected ERA based on quality of contact surrendered) was 4.20. In the 15 appearances, he pitched four clean innings.
Law’s batted ball profile leans slightly toward ground balls. His career ground-ball rate of 47% is higher than the league average of about 43%.
Derek Law threw six pitches last season. Half of them were a new, 91-mph Cutter, which he started throwing last season in Detroit. Prior to 2022, he had thrown a Slider for 60% of his pitches. Last year, his second pitch was a 95-mph Fastball/Sinker. 13% of his pitches were Curves. He still threw a Slider 12% of the time. He sprinkled in a 4-seam Fastball and Changeup to round out the list.
Here are Derek Law’s 2022 xwOBA numbers for his most common four pitches (league average was .309):
- Cutter (.386) !!
- Sinker (.338)
- Curve (.250)
- Slider (.252)
So, we’re not looking at a Wade Miley in Milwaukee situation where Law’s new Cutter became a magic pitch to save his career. Let’s look at a few of them. Here Law gets Christian Yelich to roll over on one down in the zone.
Law leaves this Cutter in the middle of the plate and the Cubs’ Christopher Morel smacks it to deep center.
Law’s 95-mph Sinker doesn’t sink as much as it moves in toward right-handed batters. Here, Law jams the Cardinals’ Nolan Arenado on one.
But there are examples of Law leaving the Sinker in the middle of the plate. Here’s what the Cubs’ Seiya Suzuki does to one.
Over his career, Law hasn’t shown any handedness bias. His wOBA split is almost identical.
- vs. RHH (.327)
- vs. LHH (.325)
Last season, his numbers were higher against both sides, but particularly so against lefties.
- vs. RHH (.340)
- vs. LHH (.390)
As usual, take a single season’s numbers for relievers with a small-sample of salt.
What to Expect in 2023
David Bell mentioned Derek Law, along with four other pitchers, as relievers he was planning to use in high leverage situations. All right then.
Let’s keep our expectations for Derek Law in check. He’s been released by five organizations in the past four years. One of those was the Detroit Tigers. In Law’s own words, no team has signed him to a second year. No team offered him a major league contract for 2023. Law is 32 years old. He started throwing a new pitch for half his pitches and it got clobbered.
The experts at FanGraphs who get paid to come up with projections peg Law’s ERA at 4.46 for 2023.
Last year? Law pitched 17.2 innings in September for the Reds. That’s the sample. The Reds went to get him again because the rock-bottom price was right. Derek Law is a poor-man’s Heath Hembree, Sean Doolittle, Brad Brach, Cam Bedrosian, Ashton Goudeau. Another spin in reliever roulette.
Like any of those guys, Derek Law could put together a good run of games. These veteran relievers who hang on from club to club randomly cycle between fine and not fine for a long while before they graduate to awful. The Reds have to hope they catch Law in the temporary upswing, empty-chamber phase.
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