Going Deep: The 10 Best Money Pitches of the First Half
- 40%+ chase rate
- 40%+ zone rate
- 15%+ SwStr rate
In essence, a money pitch is a pitch that gets swings and misses and tricks hitters into chasing, while still staying in the zone for strikes when needed.
With the All-Star break upon us, I felt like it would be a good time to take a look at some of the best money pitches of the first half (I know it’s not actually the halfway point) of the season. To do that, I took all of the money pitches being thrown (there were 35 at a minimum of 50 pitches thrown) and then sorted them by their pVAL.
There are a lot of ways to define what pitch is the “best,” and pVAL is far from the end all be all of what pitches are good or not. However it works as a convenient measurement of how “good” a pitch is, which is why I’m using it here.
So without further ado (I know you probably skipped this intro anyways), here are the 10 best money pitches of the first half when ranked by pVAL (and a major shoutout to Colin Charles for helping me gather this data).
#10: Domingo German’s curveball
In part, his success has been owed to his excellent curveball, which is currently posting a 41.8% chase rate, 45.4% zone rate and 20.8% SwStr rate on its way to a 10.0 pVAL, the best of his career.
The pitch was a money pitch last year too, though it’s producing much better results this year, as German is controlling it better and making fewer mistakes with it, as evidenced by the .079 ISO it has against it this year, compared to .157 last year.
#9: Masahiro Tanaka’s slider
I don’t think this should be a major surprise for anyone who’s watched Tanaka over the past few years. He throws a slider more than any other pitch and it’s been pretty filthy for a while.
Generally, his splitter has gotten more attention than his other pitches over the past few years and rightfully so—this year it’s got a ridiculous 55.5% chase rate and 21.7% SwStr rate), but his slider has continued to be excellent for the past few years.
This year is no different, as the pitch is sporting a 41.8% chase rate, 44.1% zone rate, and 15.3% SwStr rate. Its 12.2 pVAL is the second-best of his career so far, with last year’s 17.9 pVAL being the best for his slider.
#8: Yu Darvish’s cutter
Yu Darvish has been a bit of a disappointment this year (or…a lot of a disappointment), but there’s no denying just how filthy his cutter has been.
So far on the year, the pitch has a 42.9% chase rate, 49.9% zone rate and a 19.6% SwStr rate with a 12.4 pVAL, which is far and away the best pVAL the pitch has ever had in Darvish’s career.
He’s also increased his usage of the pitch a lot this year, making it his second-most thrown pitch, consisting of 25.5% of his repertoire compared to just 13.4% last year.
#7: Kenta Maeda’s slider
Kenta Maeda has been pretty solid this year, and that’s been in part thanks to this pitch, which is performing better than it has in years.
This season, the pitch has a 43.3% chase rate, 47.5% zone rate, 22.3% SwStr rate and a 13.2 pVAL. That pVAL is good for the second-best of his career, behind his 19.9 pVAL his slider had in his rookie season.
#6: Marcus Stroman’s slider
Marcus Stroman has been a very pleasant surprise this year for fantasy players, turning a 2018 season where he posted a 5.54 ERA into a 2019 season where he’s posted a 3.18 ERA so far.
Some of that success is thanks to the fact that his slider is performing better than it ever has, with a 40.7% chase rate, 42.5% zone rate and 15.9% SwStr rate, on its way to a career-best 13.3 pVAL. It’s also the first money pitch of Stroman’s career.
#5: Stephen Strasburg’s curveball
While I love finding out that pitchers you wouldn’t expect to throw great pitches are doing exactly that, often times you find out that pitchers who are really good (surprise!) throw pitches that are also really good. I know, I know, that’s that top-level analysis you expect from Pitcher List, I’m happy to help.
Stephen Strasburg‘s curveball is great, and it’s been great for a long time. This year, it’s still great, posting a 42.8% chase rate, 40.3% zone rate and 17.5% SwStr rate with a 13.6 pVAL.
That’s better than it was last year, though its 8.2 pVAL last year is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s not the best it’s been in his career. In 2017, it had an excellent 14.1 pVAL, and all the way back in 2013, it posted a similar 14.0 pVAL.
#4: Andrew Cashner’s changeup
I know what you’re thinking. “Ben, that can’t be right. You must be wrong, or having a stroke, or something. Andrew Cashner?”
But yes, Andrew Cashner has been throwing an absolutely filthy changeup this season on the worst pitching staff in baseball (seriously, they have a 5.68 ERA as a team).
So far this season, the pitch has a 44.8% chase rate, 48.7% zone rate and a 17.1% SwStr rate on its way to a 14.9 pVAL that’s good for the best pVAL for a pitch in his career and good for the ninth-best pVAL in all of baseball so far.
Cashner’s changeup has actually been pretty good in the past. It was almost a money pitch last year, posting a 40.3% chase rate, 38.6% zone rate and 14.5% SwStr rate, but it’s a pretty recent thing for Cashner, as he’s been upping its usage over the past couple years.
It seems to have been working fairly well too. He’s got a 3.83 ERA on the year so far, albeit with a 5.01 SIERA and a pedestrian 16.5% strikeout rate.
Oh, and fun fact, Cashner isn’t the only Oriole throwing a money pitch. Dylan Bundy‘s changeup counts as one too, and for a while, John Means‘ changeup counted as well, though his chase rate has dipped slightly below 40% on the year.
I know. Baseball is weird.
#3: Max Scherzer’s slider
HEADS UP EVERYONE Max Scherzer is a very good pitcher and he throws very good pitches.
It should be no shock to you that Scherzer is on this list, but what’s probably more surprising is that his entire repertoire is full of money pitches.
This slider has been nothing but a god-like pitch for a long time, and this year has been more of the same, with a 47.9% chase rate, 44.1% zone rate, 26.8% SwStr rate and a 16.1 pVAL.
The pitch has been a money pitch since 2013 and posted an awe-inspiring 26.3 pVAL in 2017. I could go on forever about how amazing Scherzer is, but suffice to say, the dude throws some filthy stuff.
#2: Justin Verlander’s slider
Another “no duh” addition to this list, Justin Verlander is still throwing absolute filthy, even at 36 years old.
Last year, Verlander’s fastball was good for the highest pVAL in all of baseball at 31.0. While his fastball hasn’t been quite that incredible this year (it’s still great), his slider has been absolutely fantastic, posting a 56.2% chase rate, 40.6% zone rate, and 25.1% SwStr rate with a 17.6 pVAL.
Not too long ago, it was the best pitch in baseball by pVAL, but our number one guy just recently passed him.
Speaking of which…
#1: Charlie Morton’s curveball
Without a doubt, one of my favorite pitches in all of baseball to watch, Charlie Morton‘s curveball just looks like straight-up witchcraft sometimes.
If you’ve been watching Morton the past couple years (or if you follow Pitching Ninja on Twitter), you already know how incredible this pitch is. It’s probably one of our most-GIF’d pitches in our nastiest pitches articles.
This year, it’s been especially good, with a 43% chase rate, 41.6% zone rate, and 19.2% SwStr rate. Plus, its 18.0 pVAL is good for the highest in all of baseball. There’s just nothing you can do with that pitch. It’s pure magic.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter).