About a year or so ago, we here at Pitcher List came up with a term for a special type of pitch—the Money Pitch. I say “we,” really it was Nick who came up with the term, but I mean, we’re all together here, right?
Here’s how we define a Money Pitch—it’s any pitch a player throws that meets three thresholds: A chase rate (or O-Swing) of at least 40%, a zone rate of at least 40%, and a whiff rate of at least 15%. It’s a pitch that can miss bats, get hitters to chase it, and can stay in the zone enough to get strikes.
There were 38 Money Pitches in the MLB last year, and of the 33 pitchers who had Money Pitches last year, just five had more than one in their arsenal. Today, we’re gonna take a look at all five of them, some of which are not surprising at all, and some that might surprise you.
#1: Chris Archer
Despite the fact that he had a pretty rough year last year with a 4.31 ERA and his lowest K/9 since 2014, Chris Archer finished the year with two Money Pitches.
First, there was his slider, which should come as a surprise to literally no one, considering this has been Archer’s bread and butter for years now.
Fun fact: Archer’s slider has been a Money Pitch since 2014, and last year, it was awesome yet again, with a 44.6% chase rate, 43.6% zone rate, and a 19.7% whiff rate.
Even though it was a great strikeout pitch last year, it took a slight step back, posting a 6.1 pVAL, its lowest since his rookie year, along with a .286 wOBA against (a career-worst) and a .156 ISO against (also a career worst).
As for his other Money Pitch, that goes to his changeup:
Archer doesn’t throw his changeup a ton, mostly relying on a fastball/slider combination, but his changeup looked really good last year, posting a 43.3% chase rate, 46% zone rate, and an 18.6% whiff rate. It was the first time his changeup has been a Money Pitch in his career.
Still, even though it worked as a strikeout pitch, Archer was prone to making mistakes with it. Opposing hitters had a .309 average and a .328 wOBA against it. All of this led to a -1.0 pVAL, which is admittedly better than the -2.5 it had in 2017, but still not great.
#2: Corey Kluber
It shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone that Corey Kluber would be on this list, given how dominant this guy has been for years. And what two pitches were Kluber’s Money Pitches last year?
Well, to no one’s surprise I’m sure, his slider/curveball/slurve/whatever you want to call it was one:
That is an absolutely magical pitch, and it has been for a long time. It’s met the qualifications for a Money Pitch every year of Kluber’s career except one—2016, and I’m not even going to knock him for that because, even though it ended up with a 33.7% zone rate, it also had a 52.9% chase rate and a 27.3% whiff rate.
Kluber’s slider has also posted a double-digit pVAL every year since 2014, with a 22.1 pVAL last year, down from 37.0 the year before (what a garbage down year, amirite?). It also had a 47% chase rate, 41.5% zone rate, and a 19.8% whiff rate. It’s one of the most dominant pitches in the majors.
Kluber’s other Money Pitch was his cutter:
His cutter was excellent last year, with a 45.3% chase rate, 51.8% zone rate, and 15.7% whiff rate along with a 15.9 pVAL. His cutter is another pitch that’s been a Money Pitch every year since 2014, and its posted a double-digit pVAL every year of his career except in 2012 (his rookie year) and 2017 (when it was a 9.5, so I mean, close enough).
#3: Domingo German
Now this one might be a bit of a surprise, but if you’ve watched Domingo German pitch, it probably isn’t too much of a surprise.
German did a bit of starting in the New York Yankees’ rotation last year, but also spent some time in the bullpen. Ultimately, he didn’t turn in all that great of a year, with a 5.57 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP, but he did post a 10.72 K/9, and part of that was thanks to these two pitches.
First up is his curveball:
It just barely met the qualifications for a Money Pitch last year, with a 41.8% chase rate, 41.6% zone rate, and an 18.2% whiff rate. Still, it was a great pitch, with a 42.6% strikeout rate, .261 wOBA against, and a .181 average against.
Then there’s his changeup:
German’s changeup was an effective putout pitch, with a 44.1% chase rate, 52.6% zone rate, and a 19.7% whiff rate, but if you look at all of that and expect a good pVAL, you’d be wrong.
Last year, German’s changeup posted a -2.3 pVAL, and that’s because he was prone to making mistakes with it. Like bad mistakes. Like a .407 wOBA against and a .233 ISO against. If he’s able to refine the pitch a bit, it’s got putaway-pitch potential, he just needs to stop making as many mistakes with it.
#4: Joe Musgrove
Another surprise addition to the list, Joe Musgrove didn’t have a great year last year, with a 4.06 ERA and just a 7.80 K/9. Still, he had some nasty stuff.
First up, his slider:
This has generally been Musgrove’s putaway pitch for the three years he’s been pitching, and there’s a good reason why—it’s pretty filthy. Last year it logged a 46.6% chase rate, 41.3% zone rate, and a 17.6% whiff rate, though it also posted a 0.7 pVAL, the lowest of his career.
Still, Musgrove has had a positive pVAL on his slider every year of his career so far, and even if it took a slight step back from 2017, it still had a .248 wOBA against, which is great.
Musgrove’s other Money Pitch was his changeup:
Last year was the first time Musgrove’s changeup qualified as a Money Pitch, posting a 50.8% chase rate, 44.5% zone rate, and a 24.7% whiff rate (you read that right). It also ended up with a 1.7 pVAL, the best of his career so far for his changeup, along with a 38.6% strikeout rate and a .233 wOBA against, both career bests.
#5: Max Scherzer
Probably the least-surprising name on this list, Max Scherzer turned in yet another Cy Young-worthy season last year with a 2.53 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 12.24 K/9, and that was thanks in part to his two Money Pitches.
First is his slider:
It’s an absurdly good pitch, one of his best, and ended up being the second most-chased pitch in all of baseball last year with a 53.1% chase rate, alongside a 50.6% zone rate and a 26.9% whiff rate.
It’s been stupid good forever, only ever posting a negative pVAL once (in 2009) and posting a double-digit pVAL in five seasons, including in the past four consecutive seasons. Not only that, but it’s met the classification for a Money Pitch every year since 2013 and it’s had a whiff rate above 20% every year since 2012. It’s just ridiculous.
If you’re expecting his changeup next (which is, admittedly, a filthy pitch), you’d be wrong! Next up is his cutter:
Scherzer’s cutter used to be his least-thrown pitch, and he still doesn’t throw it much, but he amped up its usage a lot last year, throwing is 351 times compared to 129 in 2017 and 133 in 2016.
It worked pretty well too, posting a 50.8% chase rate, 49% zone rate, and a 16.2% whiff rate. That’s actually down a little bit from 2017, in which the pitch saw a 55.8% chase rate, and 22.5% whiff rate (though a 33.3% zone rate). It’ll be interesting to see if he keeps increasing its usage next season.
(Main photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire)
Very intriguing list! Glad to see my boy Musgrove there. His overall line wasn’t great but check the peripherals post 8/1.
I’m surprised Luis Castillo didn’t make it. His slider and change both get over 40% swing and miss rates, but I’m guessing one of them didn’t meet the cut on zone rate.
Yep! Castillo’s changeup had a 52.8% chase rate and a 25.9% whiff rate, both of which are awesome, but just a 38.3% zone rate, so it just missed out (though that’s a Money Pitch as far as I’m concerned personally).
His slider though only had a 32.9% chase rate but was close on the zone rate and had a 16.2% whiff rate
For once, Nick and I are in agreement!
Good stuff, Ben