Anti-List: Creating the perfect FrankenPitcher
When I was a teenager, I had my first ever blog. One of my first posts was a Christmas-themed “pitch wish list,” in which I created what would be my ideal pitch arsenal of all-time. I believe I armed myself with Randy Johnson‘s fastball, Mariano Rivera‘s cutter, Trevor Hoffman‘s changeup and, of course, Jeremy Bonderman‘s slider.
More than 10 years later, here I am surrounded by nine other nut jobs who are willing to dedicate time to each create our own 2018 “FrankenPitcher” by picking four different pitches from this past season to mold together into one super arm. I guess it’s true that I found my calling at this site — even if my love of Bonderman goes mostly unrequited.
Below are the 10 FrankenPitchers that our staff created, along with details from each staff member on his choices. It features plenty of GIFs and stats to make you all daydream about what a pitcher with Max Scherzer‘s slider and Chris Sale‘s fastball, or Blake Treinen‘s slider and Aroldis Chapman‘s fastball, might look like.
Andy Patton’s FrankenPitcher
I’m a sucker for velocity. Maybe it’s because as a soft-tossing left-hander who barely scraped 80 mph, I craved a fastball that touched 90. Either way, I built a four-pitch arsenal on straight flames. However, I think there’s enough movement (and in multiple directions) to keep hitters completely guessing — even if there isn’t much change of speed.
Treinen’s slider was a no-brainer in the first round. Coming in at a crisp 89 mph with almost a complete vertical drop, this pitch was an absolute terror for opposing hitters last year. Generating a 52.0% O-swing rate and a 28.7% swinging-strike rate, Treinen rode this pitch (and his sinker) to an outstanding 0.78 ERA this past season.
Noah Syndergaard‘s heater was another no-brainer, checking in at a cool 97.4 mph this past year with wicked arm-side run. To make things even worse, my straight four-seamer comes from Chapman, coming in at an even saucier 98.9 miles per hour and generating a 12.7% swinging-strike rate — abnormally high for a straight fastball.
Lastly, I went with Nathan Eovaldi‘s cutter, which was a revelation for the flamethrower this past season. Coming in just under 93 mph, this pitch will make a nice complement to my two fastballs and the Treinen slider.
Ben Palmer’s FrankenPitcher
Being that I had the first overall pick, I had to decide what was most important to me, and that was having a good fastball that I can throw a thousand times and not have it get destroyed. That’s Justin Verlander‘s fastball in my opinion — it had the highest pVAL of all pitches in the majors at 31.0 and was just an absolutely killer pitch.
As for my breaking pitches, I think Trevor Richards‘ changeup gets underrated, but a 52.3% chase rate and 24.2% swingint-strike rate is absolutely killer. David Robertson‘s curveball is a similarly good swing-and-miss pitch, with a 22.1% swinging-strike rate last year.
And the fact that I was able to get Jhoulys Chacin‘s slider with the last pick in the draft was amazing. It had the fifth-best pVAL in all of baseball at 25.9 and was fantastic at inducing weak contact.
Nick Pollack’s FrankenPitcher
My approach was to find four distinct pitches, each at different velocities and locations around the zone. I needed elite fastball velocity with good elevation and got it from Zack Wheeler‘s four-seamer, which hangs up in the zone.
To tie it all together, I needed a mid-to-upper 80s pitch that could get strikes often while also featuring strikeout ability. Corey Kluber‘s cutter is second to none (and even if I wanted to label it a slider, I didn’t have one picked!) in its flexibility and effectiveness. This FrankenPitcher would have every tool ready for any situation.
Dan McNamara’s FrankenPitcher
I had the fifth overall pick and expected wholeheartedly to kick off my repertoire with a fastball, but when I saw a couple of really awesome breaking pitches go off the board in front of me, I knew I had to jump on getting my nastiest out-pitch. I was shocked to see this one still available: Scherzer’s slider.
With a 53.1% O-swing rate, 50.6% zone rate, and 26.9% swinging-strike rate, it is the moneyest of Money Pitches. I don’t know if there was a strike-getting pitch as dominant as this one in 2018, and I was thrilled to grab it as the staple of my FrankenPitcher’s repertoire.
Well, now I HAD to take a fastball. Without it, there’s nothing to really keep hitters from sitting on that amazing slider, and I was again fortunate to have one of the very best drop to me in the second round: Sale’s four-seamer.
Of the 187 pitchers who threw at least 500 four-seamers in 2018 (this includes some of the nastiest relievers in the game), Sale was fifth in all of baseball in swinging-strike rate on the pitch at 14.8%. And he did it all while keeping 57.1% of them in the zone.
What I love most about this pitch, however, is the assassin-like approach that accompanies it against right-handed hitters. Having always known how to be unhittable against lefties, Sale figured out how to completely subdue right-handers in 2018 by mercilessly attacking them up in the zone to open up his devastating breaking pitches.
Velocity, movement, and some serious attitude? This is exactly what I want comprising the pitch that my FrankenPitcher will be throwing more than any other in his belt.
One thing that I think separates the good pitchers from the great ones is the ability to work both of the lower quadrants. Nola did this by implementing a changeup to complement his curveball; Wheeler slowly developed a fantastic splitter to work opposite his filthy slider, and we know that Scherzer has been doing this better than anyone for years. With my elite slider set to devastate hitters in one lower quadrant, I wanted a changeup to dance into the other, and I decided to grab arguably the best one out there: Jacob deGrom’s.
Even as his third-best pitch, deGrom’s changeup was a Money Pitch (40.7% O-swing, 41.9% zone rate, 16.5% swinging-strike rate) and still had a double-digit pVal. In fact, it led the entire league in its per-usage rating with a 2.48 pVal/C. Much like deGrom, this pitch will be an incredible addition to my FrankenPitcher’s stuff (maybe it’ll even get him a Cy Young).
We’ve already got a couple nasty breaking pitches, but why not one more? With a sharp slider and devastating changeup to pair with a high-90s fastball, another change of speed with some serious movement was the final piece of the puzzle, and I went with yet another Money Pitch: Nick Pivetta’s curveball.
Ranking in the 92nd percentile of curveball spin rate and netting a 15.4% swinging-strike rate on a 41.5% O-swing and 43.7% zone rate, this nasty offering is perfect for freezing hitters with called strikes or disguising with our elevated four-seamers, and it can be merely sprinkled in as needed given our incredible repertoire to this point.
Austin Perodeau’s FrankenPitcher
With the eighth overall pick in my quest to build the best FrankenPitcher, I lead off with deGrom’s alluring fastball. deGrom’s fastball added a tick in velocity in 2018 at 96 mph while producing a career-high whiff rate of 16.2%.
An elite fastball is the backbone to many great pitchers, so I followed up deGrom’s fastball with Shohei Ohtani’s electric splitter. Hitters managed a -45 (yes, negative) wRC+ versus Ohtani’s splitter last season. He threw it 191 times allowing just two singles total (0 extra-base hits) and a whiff rate of 27.8%.
I rounded out my pitcher with Stephen Strasburg’s underrated changeup and Zack Godley’s curveball. Everyone loves a good changeup, and Strasburg’s is among the best in the league. It induces ground balls at a high rate of 61.3% while also maintaining a career whiff rate of 24.6%. No one threw a curveball as much as Godley did in 2018. Just based on pure usage it becomes a pitch that can be thrown at any point in at bat and still be successful.
The four pitches meshed together leave me with a FrankenPitcher who possesses four separate pitches with a 15-plus%+ whiff rate and none with a wOBA above .250 in 2018.
Adam Lawler’s FrankenPitcher
The pitch that made Clayton Kershaw a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Granted last year was a “down year” by Kershawian standards. Still, that had more to do with a decreased fastball than it did with his wicked slider, which still produced a 16.8 weighted value. To put it in a different lens, of the nearly 2400 sliders Baseball Savant recorded, 10% of Kershaw’s resulted in an out. That was tops in the major leagues.
If this is your first time to the website, welcome! Get to know Nick Pollack! I am pretty sure when I drafted this pitch, he likely said something to the effect of “dagnabbit” to express his frustration. For my money, there are four elite curveballs in the major leagues that can get a batter out any time — just look at these elite whiff rates per curveball offering: German Marquez (5%), Jose Berrios (5.1%), Nola (5.8%), and Snell (5.1%). Any one of those I would be thrilled to have. Luckily, I ended up with the prettiest one.
This was my happiest surprise: I ended up with the best pitch of the undisputed best closer in baseball. Kenley Jansen’s pitch is Mariano Rivera-level of elite. Of the 234 plate appearances during 2018, batters hit an anemic .194 against the cutter with a WOBA of .278. Now, combine that with 63 punch outs resulting from that pitch (a 27% strikeout rate) and you almost want to jump for joy. Despite the overstated struggles to start the year and the health issues at the end of the year, give me Jansen’s cut fastball all day every day.
I am guessing you have not seen Yoshihisa Hirano’s forkball. There’s nothing more to say than … BEHOLD AND BEAR WITNESS TO THE GLORY THAT IS POETRY IN (LACK OF) MOTION.
Daniel Port’s FrankenPitcher
This was a super fun exercise that could have honestly been done so many different ways. I know some of us took a pVAL-based approach to it, while others focused on velocity/power. Some just went for straight nastiness. My approach was to think about this like a catcher or a pitching coach. What pitches could I pair together that I thought would have allowed my FrankenPitcher to be able to handle all types of batters in all sorts of situations? I thought I would try to create pairings or combos and also make sure my FrankenPitcher had a pitch that would help him get hitters out from both sides of the plate and who had a good mix of movement/power and pitches designed to get specific kinds of results.
I picked third in the draft, and here’s what I took in each round.
I wanted to make sure I had a pitch that could be thrown 1,000-plus times with high velocity and pound the strike zone while still generating whiffs. Scherzer’s four-seamer is the perfect example of this. You can throw it in any count and anywhere in the zone. There’s an argument to be made that it might be the single best pitch in baseball when factoring in its effectiveness and how often he throws it. Just look at it: There’s plenty of velocity and tons of movement. You could likely be a successful FrankenPitcher with just this pitch let alone the other pitches we’re about to add.
For my second pitch, I wanted something to pair with the four-seamer and also to secure a pitch that would help get lefties out, and for that, I needed a changeup. If you’re going to go looking for a changeup, it’s hard to find a nastier one than Luis Castillo‘s. Combine this pitch with Scherzer’s fastball, and how would you ever hit anything? It’s like a rope-a-dope in boxing. Get them looking one way and by the time they realize how wrong they are it’s way, way too late.
I mean just look at this slider from Chaz Roe. It’s gorgeous. It defies physics, I swear. I already had my pitch to get out lefties; now I had my pitch to get out righties. I’ve actually seen the pitch start on one side of the plate and end well outside on the other side, that’s how hard the pitch breaks. Give me a pitch with that kind of ridiculous movement with a 16.2 swinging-strike rate and a 40.2 strikeout rate and I will laugh maniacally as batters of all handedness flail away at it.
I almost went with a cutter here, but as I mentioned before, I was thinking about forming pairs with my pitches. I thought the best pitch to pair with Roe’s slider was Greinke’s curveball. It was a Money Pitch in 2018 with a 32.8 strikeout rate. It really gave my FrankenPitcher a great pitch that might start like Roe’s slider but instead of breaking sharply to the glove side it suddenly just rolls of the table and drops straight down. When it all happens in the blink of an eye, how are you supposed to know which pitch is coming? This allows my FrankenPitcher to force the batter into hopefully guessing which one is coming and being wrong most of the time.
Tyler Rouse’s FrankenPitcher
When deciding between pitchers’ arsenals and the best way to present that, I knew the conversation started and ended with four pitches that blew away the competition in 2018. My selections were Patrick Corbin‘s slider, Josh Hader‘s fastball, Trevor Bauer‘s knuckle-curveball, and Scherzer’s changeup — two right-handed weapons and two left-handed weapons, because if we are going to make a monster, he needs to have the flexibility of Pat Venditte.
I selected Corbin’s slider right off the bat as it provided the knockout swing-and-miss punch I wanted in a pitcher. For a pitch thrown 41% of the time this past year, it would need to be the anchor of a valued pitcher, and with a 27.6 pVAL, it did just that.
Hader’s fastball and Scherzer’s changeup were selected purely because of the beauty of those pitches leaving their hands. I wanted my pitcher to make the batter look silly, and based on the strikeout numbers of both Hader and Scherzer alone, these pitchers certainly did the trick. Hader in 2018 had a 52% swinging rate on his heater. Coupled with the changeup of Mad Max we can be certain this pitcher wouldn’t be touched.
To add a fourth pitch to the arsenal, I felt like I was being unfair, but if free agency is any indication of things to come my pitcher would need all the wipeout/strikeout firepower he could get. Contracts aren’t coming easy, y’all, and this monstrosity would need to utterly dominate any and all batters. Bauer’s knuckle-curve was an absolute beauty this past year, and if Bauer’s arbitration hearing provided any insight, it is a dirty pitch that isn’t nice to those viewing it in the batter’s box. Just don’t let Bauer get on Twitter to discuss it, and let the GIF do the talking.
Alex Drennan’s FrankenPitcher
Sure, a top fastball is important for setting up the rest of the repertoire, but is any fastball capable of making you feel as starry-eyed as you do watching Kluber’s curve? The only thing in baseball that comes close is Kluber’s smile.
Carlos Carraso‘s changeup was the sixth–mostchased pitch in the MLB last season, and that’s when it’s being set up by a rather crummy four-seamer (closest it’s ever come to a positive pitch value was 2014). Imagine what this pitch could do with a better primary offering.
When asked about the top five fastballs by pitch value over the past two years, there’s obviously Scherzer, Sale, Chad Green, Verlander — wait, did you say Chad Green? Yes, Green’s fastball ranks No. 3 on the list, and his is the only fastball from a non-closer to crack the top 10. It’s thrown consistently precise, accurate, and hard.
Stephen Dudas’ FrankenPitcher
My thought process was pretty simple for my first selection: Given what was left on the board, Sale’s slider was the most proven, dominant pitch. Corbin’s slider was an alluring choice, but the consistency with which Sales slider has decimated batters makes it the perfect pitch to build my arsenal around. Oh yeahm and the pitch has a stupid 6 wRC+ against, supported by a 48.9 K-BB%.
My second selection came quickly, and I had one pitch in mind to pair with my dominant slider: Hader’s fastball. But that pitch got snagged, and rightfully so. While my dreams of a nasty Sale-Hader combo faded, I chose my absolute favorite pitch in baseball: Treinen’s sinker. This mind-bending pitch boasts an absurd 40.6% chase rate. A rate like would be great for an offspeed pitch. His sinker’s insane drop is arguably the most GIF-worthy thing in existence and is the reason hitters chase so often. Enjoy.
I went back to Sale for my third selection. I chose what I believe to be one of the most underrated pitches in baseball: his changeup. Everyone recognizes his slider, but his changeup rounds out his repertoire and makes him a complete pitcher. The changeup is a Money Pitch (41.0 O-swing rate, 48.5 zone rate, 19.6 swinging-strike rate) that terrorized hitters in 2018. The swinging-strike rate on his changeup proves just how filthy and deceptive this pitch is. I could not be happier with this selection.
I really wanted to add Godley’s curveball, but instead I had to settle for Craig Kimbrel’s vintage knuckle-curve. The pitch is still one of the nastiest in baseball (.082 Avg., 0 HR allowed), and it fits in well as my fourth option.
Graphic by Justin Paradis (@FreshMeatComm on Twitter)