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Five Fast Facts: Keone Kela Edition

With the Pittsburgh Pirates strongly rumored to be after the right-hander, let’s get to know him.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, the Pittsburgh Pirates have shown legitimate interest in acquiring Rangers reliever Keone Kela. Here are five fast facts on the 25 year-old veteran.

The 2018 MLB Trade Deadline is starting to heat up, and yesterday the Pittsburgh Pirates were linked to Texas Rangers reliever Keone Kela. Here now are five fast facts you need to know about the Pirates’ target.

Interesting Stuff

What struck me immediately with Kela is his pitch mix. He relies almost exclusively on a four-seam fastball and curveball combo. He’ll sprinkle in a changeup every now and then, but the distribution is staggering:

You don’t see that kind of pitch mix in a Pittsburgh Pirates reliever, that’s for sure.

Shaping the Curve

As far as when Kela breaks out the bend? Pretty much standard fare:

Even if Kela uses the curveball as it was classically intended - as an our pitch - it still just flat out works. As of this writing, Kela has 42 swings and misses on his curveball, third most among MLB relievers. That figure is 19.6 percent of his total curveballs thrown, good for sixth among MLB Relievers with at least 25 whiffs.

Good approach on two-strike counts

Kela makes a hitter work in two-strike counts regardless of what he throws, as his career whiffs per swing chart shows:

There’s an awful lot of chase at the bottom of this plot, adding another notch on his belt for curveball effectiveness.

Expect trouble against left-handed hitters

Kela does come with one big fat wart: a tendency to get touched up against left-handed hitters.

He carries an xwOBA of .365 and an actual wOBA of .370 against southpaw hitters, Both figures would “lead” the current crop of Pittsburgh Pirates relievers should we insert Kela into the unit.

Kela still strikes out 28.1 percent of left-handed batters for 2018, so his performance against lefties is more of a feast or famine equation.

Doing it all while not getting off on the right foot

Despite his overall effectiveness, Kela ranks 154th out of 162 qualified major league relievers in one key statistic: First strike percentage. He checks in with a 52.1 percent rate. As we see above, his preferred pitch on 0-0 is his four-seam fastball.

Here are what his first-pitch fastball offerings look like when charted:

Truly about a 50-50 split, but we also can notice that Kela might just be trying to stay away from left-handed batters, for all of the reasons above.

Call it a quirk, if you will, as this tiny blemish has clearly not dampened his overall play. Additionally, there is one current Pittsburgh Pirates reliever who ranks even lower — 158th — than Kela in first-strike percentage.

Can you guess him? Without looking? Ok, go ahead and give it a shot, or scroll down to find the answer.

It’s Kyle Crick. And with the season he’s having, one can certainly forgive his inability to get to 0-1 without any regularity.

Perhaps the same could be said for Kela.