For a brief time earlier this season it looked like the White Sox might have found themselves a potential rotation piece in Dylan Covey. Through his first six starts of the year Covey was 3-1 with a 2.29 ERA. He had a 3.00 K:BB ratio and was striking out close to a batter an inning while holding opponents to a .254 batting average and .290 slugging percentage. He had not allowed a home run in 35.1 innings of work.
Fast forward to today and Covey is sitting at 4-9 with a 6.06 ERA. His WHIP is 1.604 and opponents are slashing .285/.357/.408 against him. His K:BB ratio is now almost half of what it was through six starts.
It is becoming pretty apparent that Covey is not a long term option in the starting rotation, but that does not mean that there isn’t a possible role for him with the Sox long term. Covey’s splits indicate that he may very well have a future as a bullpen piece, and you can never have too many good bullpen pieces.
The first time through the order, Covey has been pretty solid, this past game notwithstanding. For the season, in 144 plate appearances, Covey has held opposing hitters to a .217/.294/.349 slash line the first time through the order. That is just a .643 OPS, well below league average for this split. He also has a K:BB ratio of almost two-to-one.
This also shows up in his splits relative to the pitch count. Covey’s first 25 pitches he is holding opponents to just a .227 batting average and a .638 OPS. The next 25 the numbers go up somewhat, but not drastically, as it is a .255 batting average and a .717 OPS.
However, once he faces the lineup the second time, and/or goes over the 50 pitch mark, things fall apart. The second time through the batting average jumps 116 points(!) to .333, and the OPS climbs 240 points to .883, well above the league average. The BAbip goes from .237 to .369 the second time around as well, and the walks and strikeouts are basically even as the K-rate plummets.
This coincides with the pitch count too. On pitches 51-75 Covey is allowing a .333/.393/.467 slash line for an OPS of .860, once again way over the league average. The BAbip is .364, which is pretty consistent with the second time through the order numbers.
As you would expect, it doesn’t really get better after that if Covey manages to stick around for a third time through the order either.
What this should make painfully obvious is that Dylan Covey is not cut out to be a starting pitcher in the major leagues. But, it certainly looks like he may have a future as a reliever, and with his starting pitching background, one that could work more than one inning. He also gets a lot of ground balls early in the game and has induced five double plays in his first 50 pitch splits this season.
Now just because these splits have held while he is starting doesn’t necessarily mean they will carry over to relief work. There should be at least some concern that with Covey going full steam from the get go that his sinker could flatten out, as tends to happen to sinker ball starters from time to time. But the Sox are in a position where they can probably afford to take a shot on trying this out. Certainly they could the rest of this year, or they could give it a go to start next season.
Either way, the Sox should be looking at any and all possibilities to maximize the resources they have that their disposal, and Covey’s sinker certainly has the possibility to be a resource. They just need to find the best way to harness it.