I’ve been diving into some of the best pitches thrown in baseball in 2018, starting with changeups. Today, we’re going to take a look at the five best curveballs thrown in the MLB this past season.
As a reminder, these pitches are ranked by pVAL, and if you aren’t sure what that all means, check out the changeups article as that will explain everything you need to know.
So let’s do it!
No. 5: David Robertson
One of two relievers on this list, David Robertson has himself a filthy curveball. He was featured as an honorable mention in the most-chased pitches article (it was limited to starters) thanks to how stupid good this pitch was last year.
It logged a 49.6% chase rate, 22.1% whiff rate, 44.4% strikeout rate, and a .189 wOBA against it. It was basically unhittable, and even when it was hit, hitters did nothing with it. No wonder it was his most-thrown pitch.
It’s been a filthy pitch for years, posting a positive pVAL in every season since 2011 and posting double-digit pVALs the past two years (it had a 17.0 pVAL in 2017). In short, don’t mess with Robertson’s curveball.
No. 4: Zack Godley
Zack Godley is a great example of a guy who has one awesome pitch and that’s it. His curveball was his most-used pitch last year, and for good reason — it had a 43.9% chase rate, 18.4% whiff rate, 40.7% strikeout rate, and a .245 wOBA against it on its way to a 12.9 pVAL.
Believe it or not though, that 12.9 pVAL is a pretty noticeable drop from 2017’s 20.7 pVAL (which isn’t totally a surprise given how good he was in 2017 and how bad he was last year).
Unfortunately though, the rest of his arsenal was bad. His three remaining pitches — a sinker, a cutter, and a changeup — all posted negative pVALs and got knocked around pretty badly, especially his cutter, which had a .419 wOBA against it.
But man is that curveball awesome.
No. 3: Dellin Betances
I know, what a shock. If you’ve watched Dellin Betances pitch at all, you obviously know about his curveball. The guy only throws a curve and a fastball (for the most part), and that curve is absolutely filthy.
Last year, it logged a 33.3% chase rate, 15.1% whiff rate, 56% strikeout rate, .172 wOBA against, and a .044 ISO against with a 13.1 pVAL.
It was a solid strikeout pitch (though it didn’t get chased a ton), and even if hitters made contact, they did nothing with it. It’s no wonder Betances is such a good reliever.
No. 2: Blake Snell
Another no-shock entry on this list: If reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell is known for anything, it’s this amazing curveball.
It’s been his best pitch his whole career, but this past year, it looked better than its ever looked, posting a 45.4% chase rate, 24.5% whiff rate, 63.4% strikeout rate, and a .144 wOBA and .070 ISO against.
All of that got him a 13.7 pVAL, the best of his career, though his slider wasn’t too far behind at an 11 pVAL.
No. 1: Aaron Nola
I am so shocked. Aaron Nola might be one of the most GIF-able pitchers around, and its almost entirely thanks to this curveball.
And amazing it was, logging a 46.6% chase rate, 45.3% zone rate, 18.2% whiff rate, 41.3% strikeout rate, .194 wOBA against, and a .094 ISO against, all translating to a ridiculous 23.5 pVAL and the best curveball in baseball last year.
Nola was actually one of just 12 pitchers to throw a pitch with a pVAL higher than 20 — his curveball was good for the 10th-highest pVAL in all of baseball last year.
Photo by Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire