What’s up everyone!
I’m at the end of my annual pitch review series where I’m taking a look at the five best pitches of each pitch type from 2022, as ranked by PLV! Today, we’re going to be looking at the five best splitters from last year.
If you’d like a closer look at what this article series is about, check out the first article in the series on the five best changeups of 2022. Also, check out my other articles in the series:
- The 5 Best Curveballs of 2022
- The 5 Best Sliders of 2022
- The 5 Best Cutters of 2022
- The 5 Best Fastballs of 2022
- The 5 Best Sinkers of 2022
And if you’d like an in-depth primer on what PLV is and how it works, check it out here.
Otherwise, let’s get to the five best splitters of 2022!
After an excellent 2021 that saw Frankie Montas post a 3.37 ERA with a 26.6% strikeout rate through 187 innings, Montas turned in a bit of an underwhelming 2022.
During his time with the A’s and then with the Yankees, Montas pitched 144.1 innings to a 4.05 ERA and a 23.4% strikeout rate, though it should be noted that ERA came with a 3.79 FIP and 3.77 xERA, which is a bit more in line with what he did in 2021.
One of the big things that helped Montas be successful in 2021 was this splitter, which he introduced in 2020 and really ramped up the usage of in 2021. The splitter worked wonders last year, posting a 44.1% chase rate, 20.3% swinging-strike rate, .219 wOBA against, and a .216 xwOBA against.
Unfortunately, Montas underwent shoulder surgery last month and is shut down for a while. As of this writing, there’s no set return date, so fantasy players will have to wait a bit before we get to see Montas pitch again.
Taijuan Walker’s splitter was really the key to his season last year, as it was the only pitch in his arsenal that wasn’t at or below league average from a PLV perspective:
Walker’s been really off and on over the past few years, but last year he was very much on, posting a 3.49 ERA through 157.1 innings with a 3.65 FIP and 3.55 xERA. Part of that, in my view, is thanks to some pitch mix changes Walker made last year, dropping the usage of his fastball and using it just about as much as his splitter while significantly decreasing the usage of his slider and sinker.
The splitter was great too, posting a 46.3% chase rate, 17.4% swinging-strike rate, .224 wOBA against, and a .253 xwOBA against. I’m always a fan of when pitchers are willing to stop throwing a bad or mediocre fastball and start throwing one of their better pitches more, and Walker did that last year. Now we just have to hope it translates into success this year too.
Last year, Nathan Eovaldi struggled with some injuries but ended up turning in his third-straight season with a sub-4.00 ERA, posting a 3.87 ERA with a 22.4% strikeout rate through 109.1 innings and 20 starts, and PLV loved his repertoire:
The splitter is Eovaldi’s money pitch, posting a 49.1% chase rate, 23.5% swinging-strike rate, 31.6% CSW, a .193 wOBA against, and a .221 xwOBA against.
It was a great pitch, and that alongside his excellent fastball, a solid curveball, and a solid slider, helped propel Eovaldi to a solid year, though it’s worth noting that his 3.87 ERA came with a 4.31 FIP and a 4.12 xERA.
Still, provided Eovaldi can stay healthy (and that’s usually a pretty big question mark), he’s got the stuff to be a really good pitcher.
If you’ve followed Shohei Ohtani for a while, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise, as he’s always had a really good splitter (he’s also got a great slider that was on the top five sliders list of this series too).
I’ll never pass up an opportunity to list out Ohtani’s stats because they’re always so ridiculous, so even though I’m sure you’re well aware that Ohtani is really good, last year he posted a 2.33 ERA, a 2.40 FIP, a 33.2% strikeout rate, a .273/.356/.519 slash line, 34 home runs, 90 runs, 95 RBI, 11 stolen bases, and he single-handedly solved world hunger.
Ohtani’s insanely good. His slider is his primary pitch, but this splitter works wonderfully as a complementary strikeout pitch, posting a 38.9% chase rate, 24.7% swinging-strike rate, .169 wOBA against, and a .145 xwOBA against last year.
Basically, what do you want a good pitch to do? You want it to miss bats, fool hitters, and induce weak contact. Ohtani’s splitter did all of those things last year.
This is probably the least surprising guy to lead any of these lists, because Kevin Gausman has had the best splitter in all of baseball for a few years now, and last year, it was the most-chased pitch in all of baseball (minimum 400 pitches thrown) with a 50.9% chase rate.
Alongside that chase rate, Gausman’s splitter posted a 26.4% swinging-strike rate, 30.7% CSW, .233 wOBA against, and a .104 ISO against.
It’s an insanely good pitch, and Gausman has always impressed me with his ability to essentially be a two-pitch pitcher. He mainly throws a four-seam fastball alongside this splitter, though it’s worth noting that last year, Gausman worked in a slider more than he ever has before, though to somewhat middling results.
But that’s fine, as long as Gausman’s fastball and splitter combo is working like it always does, he’s going to have success, and I’d expect more of the same this year.
Graphic adapted by: Chris Corr (@Chris_Studios on Twitter)