Going Deep: The Best of Each Pitch Type in the First Half
I love pitching. I assume you also love pitching because you’re here on Pitcher List, and we all love pitching.
One of my favorite things to do is to take some time to look at who’s throwing the best pitches in baseball. I’ve already taken a look at the 10 best Money Pitches from the first half of the season, but here, I’m going to look at the best of each pitch type. Who’s throwing the best changuep? The best slider? The best curveball?
How do I determine the “best” pitch? I ranked it by pVAL, which as I mentioned in the Money Pitch piece, is not a measurement that should be treated as the gospel of which pitches are effective and which aren’t. However, it is a convenient measurement of how “good” a pitch might be, which is why I’m using it.
So here we go with the best of each pitch type for the first half of the season.
Best Changeup: Luis Castillo
This should really come as no surprise, as Luis Castillo is probably best known for his absolutely filthy changeup.
It was a great pitch last year, but it has been absolutely disgusting this year, posting a 49.9% chase rate, 27% swinging-strike rate, 47.3% strikeout rate, .191 wOBA against, and .072 ISO against, on its way to a 16.0 pVAL, the best of his career so far.
It’s no wonder it’s his most-thrown pitch.
Best Slider: Justin Verlander
Justin Verlander‘s slider was featured in the Money Pitch article as the second-best Money Pitch in baseball, and if you’re ranking all pitches by pVAL, it’s also the second-best pitch in general in all of baseball.
Last year, Verlander owned the best pitch in baseball by pVAL with his fastball at 31.0. This year, it’s been all about his slider, which has looked excellent, posting a 56.2% chase rate, 40.6% zone rate, and 25.1% swinging-strike rate with a 17.6 pVAL.
Best Curveball: Charlie Morton
That honestly shouldn’t be a shock to anyone who’s been watching Morton because this pitch is like pure magic when he throws it. So far this year, it’s got a 43% chase rate, 41.6% zone rate, and 19.2% swinging-strike rate alongside an 18.0 pVAL.
Best Fastball: Max Scherzer
Another entry that shouldn’t really be a shock, Max Scherzer just throws nothing but filth if we’re being honest.
Last year, Scherzer’s fastball was one of the best pitches in baseball by pVAL at 30.9, and this year, it’s been absolutely disgusting again, posting a 14.1% swinging-strike rate (which is pretty impressive for a fastball), .262 wOBA against, and a 15.9 pVAL.
Scherzer’s fastball has been absolutely killer for years, posting double-digit pVALs four out of the past five years. It’s what you’d expect from the best pitcher in baseball.
Best Splitter: Yonny Chirinos
Not a lot of guys are throwing the splitter this year (just 12 pitchers actually), but Chirinos has definitely been the best of them.
Believe it or not, Chirinos actually isn’t throwing a single pitch with a negative pVAL this year, which is pretty impressive, and all but one of his pitches (his sinker) have double-digit swinging-strike rates, which is also impressive.
His splitter though has been great, posting a 39.5% chase rate, 19.6% swinging-strike rate, 42.7% strikeout rate, .170 wOBA against, and .075 ISO against with a 4.0 pVAL.
Best Cutter: Martin Perez
I wrote at length a while back about how great Martin Perez‘s new cutter has been this year, but needless to say, it’s been the only thing making him a worthwhile pitcher. In fact, it’s the only pitch he’s throwing that has a positive pVAL, which in part explains why he’s been so inconsistent. One pitch does not a great pitcher make.
However, Perez’s cutter has been excellent, posting a 39.2% chase rate, 13.3% swinging-strike rate, .223 wOBA against, and .097 ISO against on its way to an excellent 13.1 pVAL.
Now if only he could make any of his other pitches worthwhile …
Best Sinker: Mike Soroka
Mike Soroka has been pretty brilliant so far this year, and that’s been thanks in large part to his excellent sinker, which is his most-thrown pitch and does a great job setting up his solid offspeed stuff.
The sinker hasn’t been a strikeout pitch by any stretch this year (nor would I expect it to be), but what it has done is induced a good bit of weak contact, posting a 68.1% ground-ball rate, .278 wOBA against, and .068 ISO against. While hitters do make contact with it, they don’t really do much with it, and that’s what a good sinker does.
(Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)