Some time ago, I wrote about both Mychal Givens and Tony Zych, two rookie relievers who remained mostly unknown despite breakthrough seasons. I’m a fan of Givens, and I’m a fan of Zych, but while researching those posts, I came across some other names of intrigue. Mostly, I just filed them away in my own brain, but I’ve frequently thought about a few of them. And now that I have a chance, I can’t not write about one of them. One of the players whose names I hung on to just changed organizations over the weekend, and I have to jump in here if only because I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t.
As people waited for the Pedro Alvarez acquisition to become official, any mystery would’ve probably had to do with whether he’d pass an Orioles physical. One could’ve wondered about something else, though: Who would be dropped from the Orioles’ roster to make room? Alvarez did pass that physical, and he’s going to be a full-time DH. The Orioles did have to clear space on the 40-man, and the corresponding move passed by almost unnoticed. After all, what’s most important is the Orioles have Alvarez. But the Orioles no longer have Andrew Triggs. Now the A’s have Andrew Triggs. Let me tell you a little about Andrew Triggs.
There’s almost no reason for you to have known about Andrew Triggs. Certainly not if you aren’t an Orioles fan, or a member of Triggs’ family. Triggs will turn 27 tomorrow, and he’s never appeared in the majors. He’s appeared all of one time in Triple-A, and he’s a reliever, and he doesn’t throw all that hard by reliever standards, and he was a 19th-round draft pick after earlier being a 21st-round draft pick and a 24th-round draft pick. Triggs has been trying to achieve his dream in relative obscurity, and his playing record was familiar only to the most passionate and exploratory of baseball dorks. The average fan doesn’t go around tracking down and sorting minor-league leaderboards.
But I’ve had Triggs in the back of my mind for a few months. As a consequence, the recent moves caught my attention. The Orioles had to release Triggs to make room for Alvarez, because it’s too early for players to be designated for assignment. Triggs wound up on waivers, where he was claimed by the A’s. Because of the way these particular waivers work, Triggs could’ve refused the claim, but this way he’s remained on a 40-man roster. The A’s, as it happens, just optioned Triggs to Triple-A, but what they have is a brand new, potential impact reliever.
It’s not like I ever sought Triggs out, specifically. His numbers got him onto my radar. Pitchers — all pitchers — want to generate strikeouts while also limiting walks. This is fundamental stuff, and it gets us to the K-BB% statistic. Givens, last year, took a big leap forward in K-BB%. Zych did the same thing. Now, between the last two years, more than a thousand pitchers threw at least 50 innings in the minors in each season. Givens shows up with the top improvement in K-BB%. Triggs is in sixth. Some of the pitchers ahead of him pitched in the low minors. Working in Double-A, Triggs went from +8% to +25%, and once I saw his name I couldn’t forget it. Triggs seemingly just figured something out, and now he’s in a new organization.
There’s something else, too — Triggs is a groundball pitcher, and he hasn’t given up a home run since 2014. He works more in the low-90s than in the mid-90s, but he has a sinker that two months ago impressed Zach Britton. He also has a four-seamer he just re-introduced, and then on the side, there’s a changeup, there’s a cut fastball, and there’s a big slider. The slider is a pitch over which Triggs is said to have polished control, and here’s what it recently looked like:
In the interest of being open and honest, that slider was thrown in an inning in which Triggs allowed three long dingers. So, that spring-training appearance was a nightmare, no question, but that’s still clearly a sharp pitch. And, you notice the throwing motion. Triggs has some funk and deception to him, which seemed to make him a good fit with the Orioles. With the very low arm slot, Triggs’ sinker gets plenty of sink, and the slider whips to the left. In large part because of the success of Darren O’Day, the Orioles are no strangers to funky pitchers, and here’s Triggs compared to Givens:
Yes, as always, a slot like that can come with an extreme platoon split. If that’s all you know of a pitcher, you should guess the pitcher would dominate righties and struggle against lefties. Triggs, for whatever it’s worth, was highly successful against last year’s Double-A lefties. His strikeouts soared, and it’s possible the four-seam fastball was of great benefit here. It makes Triggs something more than a sinker/slider righty.
Triggs and Givens were teammates with Bowie. Givens closed early on, while Triggs was more of a long man. Something interesting happened when Givens was promoted to Baltimore. Triggs took over as the closer, getting shorter assignments, and where before he had nine walks and 27 strikeouts, afterward he had two walks and 43 strikeouts. His pitches per appearance were cut in half, and he responded by throwing more strikes and becoming overall less hittable. Triggs was pretty good early, but over his last 32 outings, he gave up four runs. He allowed four doubles, no triples, and no homers. It’s true that Triggs was a 26-year-old repeating Double-A, but mastery is mastery.
That mastery is what made me notice Andrew Triggs, as a kind of minor-league version of Givens and Zych. That mastery made me a fan, and I assumed that mastery would take Triggs all the way up to the Orioles at some point. As an organization, they appreciate unusual relievers, and late last year the team protected Triggs from the Rule 5 draft. I’m surprised, then, that Triggs was released in the middle of spring training, and I have to imagine there were better release candidates. Maybe that’s just my own bias, but it seems to me that Triggs has plenty to offer, and it seems to me that Triggs will force his way up to the majors with the A’s, given sufficient health. I know that this is a small thing. I know that even a sunny career outcome would leave Triggs as just a moderately successful big-league reliever. Andrew Triggs isn’t going to ever have a plaque made for the Hall of Fame, but as waiver moves go, I love this one. He’s not helping in the majors just yet. It ought to be a matter of very little time.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.