It’s one of the best times of the year: the time we all start getting hyped up about baseball and start getting ready for fantasy baseball drafts.
For the past four years now, I’ve been doing this article series where I take a look back at the top 10 most-chased pitches of the previous season (and it’s wild to me that this is the fifth iteration of this article). It’s one of my favorite articles to do and a fun way to highlight some of the best pitches in baseball from last year.
If you’d like to take a look at the most-chased pitches of years past, check out the articles from 2021, 2020, 2019, and 2018.
Before we get going, I’m going to explain the criteria I use to determine which pitches made this list. I only included pitches that were thrown at least 400 times in a season because I want this article to focus on pitchers who threw a pitch a lot throughout the year and maintained a dominant chase rate.
Anyways, enough of the intro, let’s get to the most-chased pitches of 2022.
10. Carlos Carrasco‘s Slider (45.3%)
Carlos Carrasco hasn’t been on this list since I first started doing it in 2018 when both his slider and his changeup were featured. And guess what? Spoiler alert: both his slider and changeup are on this list too, and he’s the only pitcher to ever have two pitches on the most-chased list since I started doing this.
Anyways, let’s talk about Carrasco’s slider. If you’ve been following Carrasco’s career closely, you probably know two things about him: he has a fabulous slider and changeup and he has a garbage fastball.
Well, guess what? It was the same story as usual last year, and Carrasco’s slider was fantastic, not only posting a 45.3% chase rate but also an 18.9% swinging-strike rate, a .266 wOBA against, and a .113 ISO against.
Unsurprisingly, it was Carrasco’s fastball that was and continues to be his problem pitch (and his most-thrown pitch), as opposing hitters had a .400 wOBA and .213 ISO against the pitch. And he threw it over 850 times last year. Not a fan.
9. Logan Webb‘s Changeup (45.8%)
After posting a pretty impressive 2021, Logan Webb one-upped himself last year and did even better, posting a 2.90 ERA through 192.1 innings with a 3.03 FIP and 1.16 WHIP.
Webb went with an approach last year evenly mixing his sinker, slider, and changeup, all of which were very good pitches, but the changeup is where the money was for Webb this year.
Alongside a 45.8% chase rate, Webb’s changeup posted a 14.1% swinging-strike rate, .244 wOBA against, and a .082 ISO against, becoming more of a swing-and-miss pitch than his slider (which is a surprise given last year his slider was a big-time swing-and-miss pitch).
Now, if there’s one thing you want to knock Webb for, it’s that his sinker got knocked around a bit to the tune of a .370 wOBA against, which could partially explain his 3.59 xERA last year. But I mean, even if he regresses to that, he’s still a pretty darn good pitcher.
8. Max Scherzer‘s Slider (46.3%)
Max Scherzer‘s slider being on this list shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone who’s been following Scherzer’s career over the years, because this pitch is his bread and butter and has been for years.
Last year was no different. Scherzer’s slider posted a 46.3% chase rate, 27.1% swinging-strike rate, 39% strikeout rate, .180 wOBA against, .048 ISO against—I mean you name a metric, Scherzer’s slider was great.
And it’s been great forever. Scherzer’s slider hasn’t had a wOBA against worse than .272 since 2009. That’s right—this slider has been absolutely dominant for 13 years now. And assuming health, I’d say it’s a safe bet it’ll be dominant again.
7. Ross Stripling‘s Changeup (46.7%)
I am super interested in Ross Stripling‘s potential this year. I’ve always personally been a fan of his, and he’s shown some flash in the past, like his 2018 season with the Dodgers where he posted a 3.02 ERA and 27% strikeout rate through 122 innings.
But 2020 and 2021 were rough, to say the least. Stripling was eventually traded to the Blue Jays in 2020 and was relegated to mostly a bullpen role in both seasons, posting a 5.84 ERA in 2020 and 4.80 in 2021.
But then, 2022 comes around and suddenly Stripling is good again, posting a 3.01 ERA, 3.11 FIP, and 3.57 xERA through 134.1 innings. So what gives?
The answer? A pitch mix change!
Back on the Ross Stripling thing cause why not
A reason I'm really interested in his potential – look at the changes between 2021 and 2022
FB is about the same but started using the CH more (which was really good!) and his SL more, decreasing his CB usage pic.twitter.com/kEzAKsUR41
— Ben Palmer (@benjpalmer) January 31, 2023
That’s right, Stripling totally changed his approach, significantly cutting down on his bad fastball, essentially ditching his curveball, and focusing more on his changeup and slider.
And man what a pitch that changeup was last year. Alongside the 46.7% chase rate, the pitch also had a 20.9% swinging-strike rate and a .244 wOBA against. It was a great strikeout pitch that also induced weak contact, and I’d argue it was the key to his success last year.
Now with the Giants, we’ll see if Stripling can keep things up, and if he can, I think he’ll be one of the better values in fantasy drafts this year.
6. Yusei Kikuchi‘s Slider (47.3%)
This slider has made me want to believe in Yusei Kikuchi for a couple of years now because it can be a fabulous pitch. It was on last year’s edition of this list with a 45.7% chase rate and now it’s here again, this time with a 47.3% chase rate.
And alongside that, the pitch posted a 19.2% swinging-strike rate, and a 33.9% CSW. But in a horrible twist of irony, Kikuchi’s best strikeout pitch is also one of his biggest problems.
His fastball isn’t great, opposing hitters had a .390 wOBA against it mostly thanks to the .243 ISO they had against it as opposed to the .257 average. In other words, Kikuchi had problems laying the pitch in there for big hits.
But the slider was even worse. Opposing hitters had a .414 wOBA and .322 ISO against the pitch—they crushed it. Why? Kikuchi located his slider middle-middle 9.4% of the time. That doesn’t sound like a lot, right? The MLB average is 5.9%.
The slider is a great strikeout pitch, but until Kikuchi can locate it consistently, I think he’s going to continue to have problems.
5. Carlos Carrasco‘s Changeup (47.6%)
Guess who’s back on a brand new track that got everyone in the club going mad? That’s right, Carlos Carrasco is back for his second appearance on the list, this time with his changeup.
As I mentioned earlier, Carrasco’s MO for years now has been having a bad fastball and a great changeup and slider, and this year, the changeup was as great as it’s always been.
Alongside its 47.6% chase rate, Carrasco’s changeup posted a 17.2% swinging-strike rate, .249 wOBA against, and a .102 ISO against. It’s a great pitch. Now if he can just get that fastball squared away…
4. Jeffrey Springs‘ Changeup (47.9%)
After spending his major league career to this point as a reliever, Jeffrey Springs started 25 games last year and look excellent, posting a 2.46 ERA, 3.04 FIP, 3.27 xERA, and a 1.07 WHIP.
A large part of it was thanks to this changeup, which posted a 21.5% swinging-strike rate and 32.8% CSW alongside a .255 wOBA against and a .091 ISO against. It’s a killer pitch, but Springs’ whole repertoire looked solid last year:
The changeup obviously stands out, but the fastball and slider were rock solid too. In fact, none of Springs’ pitches had a wOBA against worse than .297 (that’s his fastball), which is pretty great if that’s your worst pitch.
3. Clayton Kershaw‘s Slider (48%)
For the third time since I started doing these articles five years ago, Clayton Kershaw‘s slider has made the list, which, let’s be honest, should be a surprise to nobody.
Kershaw’s slider has been a dominant pitch for years. It’s his main out pitch and it works beautifully. Alongside the 48% chase rate it posted last year, the pitch posted a 22.4% swinging-strike rate, 32% CSW, .243 wOBA against, and .098 ISO against.
I mean, what else is there to say about Clayton Kershaw and his slider that hasn’t been said a million times before? The guy is incredible. For the second year in a row, the slider was Kershaw’s primary pitch (though it’s a pretty close split between the slider and his fastball) and I mean, why not? It’s a magical pitch and one of the filthiest in baseball.
2. Aaron Nola‘s Curveball (49.8%)
Another “no duh” pitch, this is the second time Aaron Nola‘s curveball has been featured on this list (it was the most-chased pitch in baseball in 2020).
I often like to wax poetic about how pitching is an art, and when I think of pitches that look like a work of art in motion, Nola’s curveball is one of those pitches I think of. The way it moves, it’s just so smooth, and the way it darts into and then out of the strike zone on pitches like the one in the GIF, I mean, it’s just perfection.
Alongside a 49.8% chase rate, Nola’s curveball posted a 20.7% swinging-strike rate, 39.2% CSW (92nd percentile in all of baseball by the way), a .258 wOBA against, and a .127 ISO against. Oh yeah, and it had a PLV of 5.49, which is well above the MLB average of 4.93 for curveballs.
Basically, it’s like one of the three best curveballs in all of baseball.
1. Kevin Gausman‘s Splitter (50.9%)
Surprisingly, Kevin Gausman‘s splitter has only ever made this list once before and it just barely did, sitting at number nine back in 2019.
This is another one of my favorite pitches to watch in the game. Even back when Gausman was (mostly) struggling as a member of my Orioles (miss u bby), this pitch was always a special pitch.
I’ve always been impressed with Gausman’s ability to essentially be a two-pitch pitcher as a starter. That’s not easy to do, especially when you’re throwing a splitter as one of your primary pitches (they’re not easy to throw consistently), but Gausman is a special pitcher, and his splitter is a special pitch.
Last year, alongside a 50.9% chase rate, Gausman’s splitter posted a 26.4% swinging-strike rate, 30.7% CSW, .233 wOBA against, and a .104 ISO against.
What’s especially impressive to me is that Gausman threw the pitch in the zone just 29.3% of the time last year. That should clue you in on just how deceptive this pitch is—he throws it 36% of the time and it’s almost never in the strike zone, but hitters are chasing it left and right. It’s a beauty.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)