Going Deep: The 5 Best Sliders of 2018
I’ve been diving into some of the best pitches thrown in baseball in 2018, starting with changeups, followed by curveballs. Today, we’re going to take a look at the five best sliders 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, which will explain everything you need to know.
So let’s do it!
#5: Corey Kluber
If you want to call this a curveball, that’s fine. I won’t argue with you. If you want to call this a slider, I think that’s fine too, and if you want to call it a slurve, I’m cool with that as well (just don’t tell Nick, cause he hates slurves).
Whatever this pitch is, it’s magical, and it is an absolute joy to watch. Last year, the pitch had a 47% chase rate, 19.8% whiff rate, .143 wOBA against and .115 ISO against. I mean, just a nasty, nasty pitch.
But you know what’s crazy? Last year, that slider logged a 22.1 pVAL—the third-best pVAL Kluber’s ever had. His best? This same pitch in 2017 with a 37.0 pVAL. That is nuts. For reference, the best pVAL in all of baseball last year was Justin Verlander‘s fastball at 30.0.
#4: Mike Foltynewicz
Mike Foltynewicz‘s slider was brand new last year, and it was an amazing success. It had been a pretty good but not great pitch in the past, but last year, Folty changed it around, adding about an inch of horizontal movement and taking away most of its vertical movement. It worked great.
The pitch logged a 40.1% chase rate, 17.9% whiff rate, 41.8% strikeout rate, .177 wOBA against and a .076 ISO against on its way to a 23.8 pVAL, far and away the best pVAL Folty’s had in his entire career.
It made for a great strikeout pitch and complement to his blazing fastball (though his changeup wasn’t anything to sneeze at, with a 13.4% whiff rate), and if he can keep it up, he’ll be able to be successful again this year.
#3: Miles Mikolas
Miles Mikolas was fantastic last year after having been away from the majors for four years. A lot of that success had to do with his slider.
The pitch fell just short of our classification for a money pitch, though I’m going to go ahead and call it one. With a 39.5% chase rate, 50.1% zone rate and a 14.4% whiff rate, that’s close enough for me, not to mention its .201 wOBA and .061 ISO against, all culminating in a 24.3 pVAL.
#2: Jhoulys Chacin
Jhoulys Chacin used his slider more than any other pitch last year, and in all honesty, why not? With a 35.9% chase rate, 13% whiff rate and a .215 wOBA against, it clearly worked wonders.
This isn’t the first time Chacin’s logged an excellent pVAL on his slider either. In 2017, it had a 21.2 pVAL, and last year that jumped up to 25.9, which, by the way, was good for the sixth-highest pVAL for a pitch in all of baseball.
Perhaps it’ll get even better next year when Jhoulyst expect it (I’m sorry, I’m contractually obligated to make a Jhoulyst pun and I don’t want to make Nick mad).
#1: Patrick Corbin
This really shouldn’t be too much of a shock to anyone. If Patrick Corbin was known for one pitch last year, it was his slider. With the fifth-highest pVAL in all of baseball at 27.6, this pitch was ridiculous.
I’m talking a 51.6% chase rate, 29.3% whiff rate, 54.2% strikeout rate, .195 wOBA against and a .098 ISO against. This thing was a swing-and-miss pitch if I’ve ever seen one, and even if hitters did make contact, they did absolutely nothing with it. It’s a masterful pitch and it’s one of the best sliders in the game.
BONUS: Chris Sale
Look, I know. When you opened this article, you expected to see Chris Sale. His slider is one of the best-known sliders in baseball, and for good reason. However, he didn’t quite make this list—with a pVAL of 19.1, his slider comes in at #6, just behind Kluber.
But, because I know if I didn’t include Sale on this list, I’d get a slew of angry comments, I figure hey, why not?
Sale’s slider last year was fantastic, as you’d expect, logging a 39.7% chase rate, 40.7% zone rate, 18.1% whiff rate, 52.5% strikeout rate and a .161 wOBA against. It was his primary strikeout pitch and it looked better last year than it’s ever looked (though it’s always been amazing).
And that 19.2 pVAL? It’s the second-best pVAL he’s had on a pitch in his career. The best? His fastball in 2017 at a ridiculous 26.3 pVAL.
(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)