Nabil Crismatt the Padres’ unsung hero of 2021

Credit: Padres

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Credit: AP Photo

Nabil Crismatt provided a lot of value to the San Diego Padres in 2021. 

Did the San Diego Padres have a successful 2021?

No. They were supposed to compete for the world series but failed to even win 50% of their games.

The pitching staff was one of the most polarizing parts of the team. Right away, the rotation failed to pitch meaningful innings that passed the buck onto the bullpen. The relief unit held its own for as long as possible. Unfortunately, they were severely overworked, especially after taking a durability hit in 2020. That caused a lot of injuries and turnover out of the pen. There is a shortlist of relievers who did not spend any time on the IL for the Padres: Mark Melancon, Tim Hill, and Nabil Crismatt.

Melancon was signed to be the Padres closer, and he did a great job at that, leading the league with 39 saves. Hill was acquired from the Royals in 2020 and was one of the best relievers early in the season. That leaves Nabil Crismatt.

At the end of the season, native San Diegan and the ace of the 2021 staff, Joe Musgrove, spoke about Crismatt. “I want to give a shoutout to one player that doesn’t get enough credit, and that’s Nabil Crismatt,” said Musgrove. So let’s break down how Crismatt flew under the radar as one of the best Padre pitchers in 2021.

Crismatt was signed out of Colombia by the Mets back in 2012. His first taste of the MLB came with the Cardinals last season, who dropped him. The Padres picked him up on a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. A great spring training performance and a few injuries gave Crismatt a spot on the opening day roster. He took the opportunity and became one of the most reliable pitchers in the bullpen. Over the 81.1 innings pitched, he posted a 3.87 ERA. The pitcher was even stronger in May, July, and August, with an ERA below 2.50 in those months. Not only did he produce results, Crismatt produced them at a moment’s notice.

The right-handed pitcher served as the go-to guy when a starter was being pushed out of the game too early. For the Padres, this was far too common an occurrence as over half of his appearances came in the sixth inning or earlier. Breaking down his 45 appearances, seven were less than an inning in duration, 14 between one and two innings, 17 between two and three innings, seven appearances of three or more innings.

How did Crismatt go from a pitcher being turned away by the Mets, Mariners, and Cardinals to a dependable option out of the bullpen?

He doesn’t fit the bill of a modern bullpen arm or a modern pitcher in general. The native of Columbia doesn’t have an overpowering fastball, or a breaking ball with an extreme spin rate, or a deceptive delivery. Crimsatt found success by being slower than the rest of the league.

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His primary pitch, the changeup, averaged 82.3 mph, while the league average sits closer to 86mph. He used it 52% of the time and to great effect. In fact, it was the 16th most valuable change up this season according to the Fangraphs pitch value metric. That places his changeup directly above Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer‘s own changeups. Very impressive. Crismatt will be an important part of the relief core moving forward.

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