The Underrated Signing of Derek Law

In a flurry of offseason moves, some went more unnoticed than others, including the signing of Derek Law. However, just over a month into the season Derek Law has been able to prove his worth in the Nats bullpen as an asset to Davey Martinez.
Washington Nationals v San Francisco Giants
Washington Nationals v San Francisco Giants / Andy Kuno/San Francisco Giants/GettyImages

Mike Rizzo made a flurry of offseason moves heading into the 2024 season, with none of them necessarily jumping off the page as moves that would push the Nationals into contention. However, the Nationals have already seen a couple cheap investments perform at values higher than the dollar amount for which they were signed. To be more exact, one of those player investments is Derek Law, who has been the second most valuable arm out of the bullpen for Davey Martinez thus far.

Derek Law has spent the majority of his career as a journeyman, as the Nationals mark the sixth major league team the 33 year old has been on. Mike Rizzo inked the right hander to a 1-year, $1.5 million deal in the offseason, a move that seemed like just a standard depth move at the time.

Just over a month into the season, Derek Law has established himself as one of Davey's favorite guys out of the bullpen, as Law has been called upon in 21 out of the Nationals' 39 games. In his 21 appearances, Law has covered 25 innings and pitched to an ERA at 3.24, despite a not so hot WHIP of 1.40. Despite the high WHIP, expected statistics back the level that Law is pitching at, with his xERA being 3.85, with a FIP of 3.06 and xFIP of 3.15. With his production being where it has been, Law has accrued 0.4 fWAR so far in 2024, good for second in the Nationals bullpen, only trailing Hunter Harvey.

Derek Law uses a six pitch repertoire to attack hitters, utilizing a cutter, slider, four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup and curveball. He relies mostly on his cutter and slider, as they make up 64.2% of Law's pitches used in 2024, which makes sense when considering Law's slider is his best pitch, accruing +2 run value in 2024. He has capitalized on that slider, spiking its usage from 17.3% a year ago to the 26.2% it is this year.

Each pitch in the six pitch arsenal from Law compliments one another, as he really attacks different parts of the zone with each pitch. He will bury the slider down and away from right handed hitters, while utilizing his changeup down and away from left handed hitters. He throws his cutter and sinker all over the zone, while trying to primarily throw his four-seam fastball more elevated. Whether it be the Sean Doolittle or Jim Hickey effect, any and all changes Law has made has been for the better this year. He is getting hitters to chase at an elite 35.1% clip, while also getting ground balls at a rate right below 50%.

FanGraphs has a metric that converts WAR to a dollar scale to try to determine how much a player is worth based on their performance that season, which is extremely interesting when determining how much extra value a team may have gotten from a player they signed to a cheap deal. In this case, FanGraphs has Derek Law's 2024 dollar value at $2.9 million based on his performance thus far, highlighting how much more valuable Law has been when compare to his actual contract of $1.5 million.

If Law can continue his strong performance he has put on display thus far, perhaps he can net the Nationals some kind of prospect come the trade deadline. If not, then he can continue to serve as a valuable piece out of the bullpen that can eat innings and get outs down the stretch for Washington. Regardless of what the future holds for Derek Law, his performance in 2024 so far has been much better than expected, cementing himself as one of the better free agent singings from the prior offseason.