Alexis Diaz had a tremendous rookie season for the Cincinnati Reds. So much so that the right-hander was the topic the trade rumors this offseason, especially after his brother was injured during the World Baseball Classic.
But, Diaz has been the Reds closer in 2023 and went to the All-Star Game for the first time after utterly dominating the opposition this season. Diaz has gotten the Reds out of countless jams and is tied for the second-most saves in the National League this season.
But has Fernando Cruz surpassed Diaz as the best reliever on the Reds roster? What would have been a laughable statement about two months ago is a very real conversation having witnessed Cruz's performance of late.
Has Fernando Cruz surpassed Alexis Diaz as the Reds best relief pitcher?
Before we dive into the stats too deeply, it must be said that Alexis Diaz is a phenomenal pitcher and is utterly gassed at this point in the season. Diaz, along with the trio of Buck Farmer, Lucas Sims, and Ian Gibaut have answered the bell numerous times this season.
But, taking a look at Baseball Savant would tell you that Diaz and Fernando Cruz are neck-and-neck in several important categories. Both Diaz and Cruz are in the 90th percentile and above in expected batting average, expected ERA, strikeout-rate, and whiff-rate. Cruz is actually slightly better than Diaz in most of the metrics.
Cruz's 77-percent chase-rate has a big advatange over the 48-percent chase-rate that last year's rookie owns in 2023. Diaz's 11.6-percent walk-rate is also not among the best in the league, though Cruz isn't much better with a walk-rate of 10.3-percent.
Since the calendar flipped to September, Fernando Cruz has faced 31 batters and struck out 17 of them. That's a strikeout-rate of 54.8-percent. Cruz's FIP during that time is a measly 0.62 while allowing just two hits.
Many fans forget that after debuting last September at age 32, Fernando Cruz is still considered a rookie. Cruz's split-finger fastball is virtually un-hittable. With 74 punch outs and whiff-rate of 56.4-percent, Cruz's splitter might be one of the best pitches in all of baseball.
For comparison's sake, according to Baseball Savant, Devin Williams' changeup is good for a whiff-rate of 42.2-percent. Williams' changeup, also known as the Air Bender, is among the nastiest pitches in the game. Diaz owns a 38.8-percent whiff-rate with his slider.
Now this isn't to suggest that Fernando Cruz should replace Alexis Diaz as the Cincinnati Reds' closer, but manager David Bell may have to think twice about whom to deploy when he needs three outs a crucial time in the game.