(Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire)
It’s 2018 and in less than one month, the music of ABBA will once again reach mainstream culture with the release of Mamma Mia 2. Disco, somehow, isn’t dead. Tony Disco, the nickname for Cincinnati Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani, isn’t dead either. Although a sprained UCL cost him all of 2017, DeSclafani is back and through his first two starts of 2018. While they haven’t been the prettiest outings, much of that can be attributed to a particularly wicked DLH (disabled list hangover) and a case of getting BABIP’d in his most recent outing on Sunday.
Through his first two starts of 2018, Disco has given up six earned runs on 16 hits in just ten innings of work. His 1.90 WHIP is certainly concerning, as is his 5.40 ERA. However, he does boast an 11/3 K/BB ratio. If not for an exorbitantly high .500 BABIP, Disco’s ERA might closely resemble his 3.11 FIP.
Obviously, two starts is too early to draw any sweeping conclusions about DeSclafani. This post is here mostly to serve as a reminder that DeSclafani is back, and when he’s on he has some truly nasty stuff. We can also take a look at his past performance and garner a sense of what we can expect from Tony Disco for the rest of the season.
From 2015-2016 DeSclafani made 51 starts for the Reds. He posted a 3.74 ERA with a 1.29 WHIP and a 256/85 K/BB ratio, good for a 7.5 K/9. While never a strikeout machine, DeSclafani has made his living attacking the corners and generating weak contact. Opponents posted soft hit rates of 18.6% and 16%, respectively.
Here’s a look at DeSclafani’s arsenal. While it hasn’t changed much since 2016, it’s worth a reminder for those considering adding Tony Disco to see what he’s working with.
Disco’s Dance Moves
DeSclafani has two fastballs. His first is a fairly traditional four-seamer that sits around 94 miles per hour. This pitch is sometimes labeled as a sinker, although it has more horizontal movement than vertical. As one would expect from a fairly straight fastball in the mid-90’s, it doesn’t miss a ton of bats. It does generate a fair amount of ground balls however, one of the few redeeming qualities.
He also sports a two-seamer that boasts wicked arm side run. This is his best fastball offering, and you can see why in the GIF below.
With virtually the same velocity, Disco can run this pitch in on a right-hander, pushing them off the plate. As seen above, he can also use it to back a lefty off the plate and still paint the inside corner for strike three.
His bread-and-butter secondary is his hard, tight slider. The pitch sits 88 miles per hour and has generated an o-swing rate of over 40% in each of his big league seasons. Here’s a look at this pitch diving sharply away from Cardinals outfielder Harrison Bader. At 88 with that type of movement, it’s not surprising that DeSclafani makes his living with this pitch.
In addition to the slider, DeSclafani also sports a knuckle curve. It’s not a pitch he uses all that often, choosing instead to rely on his sinker/slider combo. He did fan Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter on the knuckle-curve on Sunday, although it wasn’t the prettiest pitch:
As you can see, his knuckle-curve doesn’t have a huge amount of movement on it. He averaged over six inches of vertical movement in 2015-2016, although he’s only averaged four this season. Granted, that’s a sample size of seven curveballs, so it’s quite possible he’ll start to see more movement on that pitch as he gets more comfortable going forward.
He has a changeup as well, although he rarely uses it. It’s more of a ’show-me’ secondary, used to try and get hitters to chase but rarely as a true out-pitch.
All-in-all, Disco is alive and through two so-so starts in 2018. The hangover tends to last a little longer when you’ve missed an entire year, as pitchers need to find their control again after so much time away. Still, DeSclafani has a solid enough arsenal to be worthy of consideration in deeper fantasy formats. If he is able to return to form, he profiles as a TOBY. TOBY is a term used to describe a pitcher with little upside but a high floor. (Inspired by Toby from The Office, who hangs around even though no one likes him). Tony Disco likely won’t hurt you, but he’s unlikely to develop into any kind of ace.
His first two starts have likely cooled many fantasy owners from giving him a chance. However, he is worth a look certainly in deeper leagues as a high-floor ratio stabilizer going forward.