Welcome to the pitch review series, where I’m taking a look at the best pitches of each pitch type from 2021! Today, we’re taking a look at the top five splitters from last year!
If you’d like some more details on this series, take a look at the top five changeups article (and also just in case you want to see some pretty awesome changeups). This is the final article in the series, so check out the rest of it! Here it is:
- The 5 Best Curveballs of 2021
- The 5 Best Cutters of 2021
- The 5 Best Fastballs of 2021
- The 5 Best Sinkers of 2021
- The 5 Best Sliders of 2021
Anyways, here are the top five splitters from 2021!
5. Alex Cobb
This shouldn’t be a shock at all. Alex Cobb has off and on had one of the best splitters in the game for a while, and in 2020, we saw his magical splitter (called “The Thing”) return.
The swing-and-miss numbers on this pitch are nuts, and always have been. Last year, the pitch posted a 47.8% chase rate and 20.2% SwStr rate. But on top of that, it was really good at inducing weak contact, posting a .270 wOBA and .082 ISO against.
I don’t think the question about Cobb has ever been his splitter. It’s had some problems here and there, but in general, The Thing has been a filthy pitch for a while now. The question has always been 1. Cobb’s health and 2. all the other pitches he throws.
Luckily for Cobb, he did a pretty good job with the rest of his repertoire last year, posting a solid .320 wOBA and .114 ISO against with his sinker (the best numbers that pitch has seen since 2013), and his curveball did a pretty decent job missing bats, with a 31.3% chase rate and 10.1% SwStr rate alongside a .248 wOBA against.
The real question will be, can Alex Cobb be really good for again this year? His 3.76 ERA came with a 2.92 FIP and 3.83 SIERA, all of which are very encouraging, and he posted his best strikeout rate (24.9%) of his career.
Now he’s in San Francisco, a great pitcher’s park, so will Cobb stay healthy and be a good pitcher again? I hope so, he’s fun to watch.
4. Tyler Mahle
In 2018, Tyler Mahle added a splitter to his repertoire, and in 2019, he started using it a lot. Since then, the pitch has been pretty darn good and has really helped Mahle’s game.
In fact, Mahle had just three pitches in his repertoire last year—his fastball, his cutter, and this splitter—completely ditching the slider he occasionally threw in 2020 and used to rely on heavily early in his career.
None of those pitches were especially good swing-and-miss pitches, though the splitter posted solid numbers, with a 33.8% chase rate and a 16.4% SwStr rate. But what the splitter was especially good at was inducing weak contact, as it had a .225 wOBA and .072 ISO against.
Though, caveat here, I say none of the pitches were especially good swing-and-miss pitches, it’s worth noting that Mahle’s fastball had a 27.7% chase rate and 10.4% SwStr rate, both of which are really solid numbers for a fastball (and that’s not even mentioning the 34.6% strikeout rate the pitch had).
Mahle had a solid year last year with a 3.75 ERA, 3.80 FIP, and 3.82 SIERA, and his 27.7% strikeout rate was pretty darn good too. I worry about a guy without a top-level wipeout pitch, but Mahle has proven he can work with his great fastball and nice splitter alongside his cutter and do it effectively. I wouldn’t be shocked if Mahle’s ERA is closer to 4.00 this year though.
In 2018, Frankie Montas was a decent but unspectacular pitcher who had just come through an awful season with the A’s, and while he had a decent 3.88 ERA, he was barely striking anyone out.
Then, in 2019, Montas added a splitter, and we saw him jump from a 3.88 ERA guy with a 15.2% strikeout rate to a 2.63 ERA guy with a 26.1% strikeout rate.
This splitter has been a career-saver for Montas, and it’s a big reason the guy was able to post a great season last year. The pitch looked as good as it ever has, with a 43.5% chase rate, 25.8% SwStr rate, .164 wOBA against, and a .042 ISO against.
On top of that, he had a fastball that generally did a good job limiting hard contact (though a .193 ISO against alongside a .296 wOBA against suggests Montas definitely made some mistakes with the pitch). His sinker got knocked around a bit and his slider wasn’t much to write home about, but if you’ve got a solid fastball and a killer breaking/offspeed pitch, you’re going to have some success in the majors.
Would I like to see Montas develop that slider a bit more to be a good secondary strikeout pitch? Yes. That would make me feel a bit more secure with him on my team. But overall, Montas is a solid pitcher with one of the best splitters in the game.
2. Wily Peralta
Pitching for the Tigers last year, Wily Peralta turned in the best ERA of his career at 3.07. Of course, that came alongside a 4.94 FIP, 5.27 SIERA, 1.33 WHIP, and a 14.4% strikeout rate, so remember, ERA isn’t everything.
I’d argue the only reason Peralta was able to put up a decent season last year was thanks to this splitter—it’s easily the best pitch he throws. It was a new addition to Peralta’s repertoire last year and it worked great, posting a 38.5% chase rate, 19.1% SwStr rate, .131 wOBA against, and a .050 ISO against.
Those are all phenomenal numbers and point to a really top-notch breaking pitch. What wasn’t great was … basically everything else. The three other pitches Peralta had in his repertoire last year—a sinker, a four-seam fastball, and a slider—all had a wOBA against of .375 or worse and an ISO against of .184 or worse.
In fact, take his four-seam fastball (please! lololol). It had a .430 wOBA and .208 ISO against. That’s awful. And his slider? A .394 wOBA and .308 ISO against. Worse!
I’m skeptical Peralta’s going to be successful, though I do like that he’s toyed with his repertoire and added this fantastic pitch. But unless he gets the rest of his repertoire sorted out, he’s going to have a rough time.
This should serve as a surprise to no one. Kevin Gausman has one of the greatest pitches in the game, period—this splitter. It was the top splitter of 2020, it was one of the most-chased pitch of 2019, it’s a filthy filthy pitch, it’s pure magic. And if you can believe it, it got even better last year.
Last year, Gausman’s splitter had a 41.2% chase rate, 23.9% SwStr rate, .189 wOBA against, .101 ISO against, and a 45% strikeout rate. Top to bottom, it was a killer pitch.
Gausman is essentially a two-pitch pitcher. He throws his fastball around half the time, his splitter around 40% of the time, and then peppers in a slider and changeup here and there. But mostly, he’s working with his fastball/splitter combo, and why not? The fastball is great at limiting hard contact and the splitter is a fantastic strikeout pitch.
Gausman had a career year last year with a 2.81 ERA, 3.00 FIP, 3.42 SIERA, 1.04 WHIP, and a 29.3% strikeout rate, and now he’s with the Blue Jays. I don’t think he’s a sub-3.00 ERA pitcher, but I’d bet he’s pretty darn close if this splitter keeps being this awesome.
Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)