I’m in the midst of my pitch review series, taking a look at the best of each pitch type from last season, and today we’re going to take a look at the best splitters from 2019, ranked by pVAL.
But enough introduction: Let’s get to the pitches!
No. 5: Tyler Mahle
Tyler Mahle had some flashes last year where he looked pretty good, but overall, his season was a tough one, posting a 5.14 ERA and a 4.16 SIERA, despite a decent 23.2% strikeout rate.
But this splitter was quite good, and it was a new pitch for him. Before last year, Mahle typically only threw a fastball, slider, and changeup, mixing in a curveball very rarely. But last year, Mahle totally retooled his repertoire, amping up his curveball usage, adding a splitter and a cutter, and essentially abandoning his slider and changeup.
While not all of that worked out (his cutter was rough and he had a bit of trouble commanding his fastball and curveball), this new splitter was excellent, posting a 48.3% chase rate, 14.2% SwStr rate, .243 wOBA against, and .110 ISO against. If he can really utilize that splitter more next year, things might turn around for him.
No. 4: Homer Bailey
Homer Bailey‘s 2019 was definitely better than his 2018 with the Cincinnati Reds, but to be honest, just about anything will be better than a 6.09 ERA season. Still, last year wasn’t a good one for Homer, as he posted a 4.57 ERA with a 4.60 SIERA, 1.32 WHIP, and a 21.4% strikeout rate (which was admittedly improved over his 15.2% rate in 2018).
But despite all that, Bailey’s splitter continued to be a very solid pitch, posting a 41.3% chase rate, 20.1% SwStr rate, .212 wOBA against, and .127 ISO against. It was his clear (and really only) strikeout pitch, with a 38.1% strikeout rate.
Unfortunately, the rest of his repertoire wasn’t great. His fastball was workable and even posted a 7.0 pVAL, which is drastically better than the -12.1 pVAL it posted in 2018, but his slider and curveball were basically useless pitches.
No. 3: Yonny Chirinos
Yonny Chirinos got used as an opener pretty frequently by the Tampa Bay Rays, but still managed 133.1 innings last year through 26 games and 18 starts. He looked pretty solid, posting a 3.85 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 21.5% strikeout rate.
Part of that was thanks to this splitter, which was fantastic, posting a 40.7% chase rate, 20% SwStr rate, .165 wOBA against, and a .083 ISO against.
In fact, none of Chirinos’ pitches had a wOBA against worse than .329 (his sinker) and all of his pitches had a positive pVAL (I’m not including the four-seamer he threw just 19 times). He’s got some pretty good stuff.
No. 2: Jose Leclerc
After a 2018 that saw him as one of the best relievers in the game with a 1.56 ERA and 38.1% strikeout rate, Jose Leclerc had quite the backslide in 2019, posting a 4.33 ERA, though with a 3.73 SIERA and a still fantastic 33.4% strikeout rate.
But it wasn’t his splitter that failed him last year. While it did take a slight bit of a slide compared to 2018, it was still an excellent pitch, posting a 35.3% chase rate, 16.4% SwStr rate, and a .262 wOBA against. The big difference from 2018? It had a .168 ISO against last year compared to a .011 ISO in 2018, which we can gather means Leclerc had some command issues.
Still, it was good enough to earn him a 6.4 pVAL on the pitch, good enough for second-best on this list, which is exactly where it was last year.
No. 1: Kirby Yates
This is one of my favorite pitches around, because it’s just so filthy. Kirby Yates was incredible last year, logging a 1.19 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and 41.6% strikeout rate over 60.2 innings with 41 saves. I mean, that is an incredible year for a closer.
He’s essentially a two-pitch pitcher, which means this splitter is a big reason why Yates was so insanely good last year. It posted a 45.3% chase rate, 17.5% SwStr rate, .181 wOBA against, .025 ISO against, and a 40.2% strikeout rate on its way to a 12.9 pVAL and the best splitter in baseball.
Not to be outdone though, Yates did also have a fantastic fastball, which had a 14.4% SwStr rate (which is very high for a fastball) and a .272 wOBA against. In other words, Kirby Yates is very very good.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)