This past offseason, Pitcher List introduced Pitch Level Value, or PLV, a new metric that assesses player performance by grading outcomes relative to the quality of the pitch. If you’re new to it, you can read Nick Pollack’s primer on PLV here.
You’ll find the definitions below. Grades are on a 20-80 scale.
Swing Aggression: How much more often a hitter swings at pitches, given the swing likelihoods of the pitches they face.
Strikezone Judgement: The “correctness” of a hitter’s swings and takes, using the likelihood of a pitch being a called strike (for swings) or a ball/HBP (for takes).
Decision Value (DV): Modeled value (runs per 100 pitches) of a hitter’s decision to swing or take, minus the modeled value of the alternative.
Contact Ability: A hitter’s ability to make contact (foul strike or BIP), above the contact expectation for each pitch.
Power: Modeled number of extra bases (xISO on contact) above a pitch’s expectation, for each BBE.
Hitter Performance (HP): Runs added per 100 pitches seen by the hitter (including swing/take decisions), after accounting for pitch quality.
Pitch Level Value (PLV): Estimated value of all pitches, based on the predicted outcome of those pitches (0-10, 5 is league average).
Pitch Level Average (PLA): Value of all pitches (ERA Scale), using IP and the total predicted run value of pitches thrown.
Pitch type PLA: Value of a given pitch type (ERA scale), using total predicted run values and an IP proxy for that pitch type (pitch usage % x Total IP).
(Note: All stats are current through Thursday, 8/17).
On Tuesday, we saw Yusei Kikuchi and Zack Wheeler lock horns in a tight pitcher’s duel. The Jays squeaked the winning run across in the bottom of the eighth, so Kikuchi didn’t earn the win. Still, he allowed just one earned run on four hits across six innings and continues to put last year’s 5.19 ERA and 1.50 WHIP further and further in the rearview mirror.
Over his last four starts, the former Seibu Lion has a 1.44 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. After walking batters at an MLB career-high clip of 12.8% a season ago, he’s done a 180 and is now at a career-low 6.6%. We’ve really seen him take off this year thanks to at least two things. The first is a new curveball which in the aforementioned game against Wheeler and the Phillies earned a terrific 6.02 PLV / 0.75 PLA on 15 pitches. And it’s, of course, not a small sample blip either. If you look at his PLV distributions, you’ll find the curveball has been well above the league average.
Kikuchi’s slider has been very good too, but he had that last year. The second thing that has pushed him forward this season is his four-seamer; if you look below you’ll see that it was just about average in PLV last year. This season, though, has been a different story. Among pitchers with at least 2,000 pitches thrown this season, Kikuchi’s heater ranks ninth in PLA at 3.18, a big improvement from last year’s 4.38.
Torkelson is slashing .230 / .309/ .431 through 118 games, so the results have been underwhelming as a whole. However, he’s banged out six home runs with a 1.032 OPS over his last 12 games. After showing average power last season (50), we’re seeing more from him this year (55). And his SZ Judgement and DV grades have both gone up from 55 last year to 60 this year. More importantly, we’ve seen an upward trajectory with his power as the season has gone along. This is all the sort of growth that you like to see in year two.
Through his first 28 games (119 PA), Gelof is slashing .294/ .353/ .633 with eight home runs and seven stolen bases. So far, his PLV profile is pretty impressive across the board.
The only thing that PLV doesn’t like about Gelof so far is his contact ability. Sure enough, strikeouts were one thing that dragged his prospect profile down a little bit, so we’ll have to see how that goes moving forward.
Maeda’s latest start was a clunker against the Tigers, during which he allowed three earned runs on seven hits across four innings. The culprit looks to have been his slider which returned just a 15.8% CSW and a 4.60 PLV / 6.69 PLA on 19 pitches.
Still, Maeda has been otherwise brilliant. In his previous four starts, he had a 1.93 ERA and 0.86 WHIP along with a 29.2% K rate. He also earned a 5.16 PLV during that span of four starts.
Maeda’s pitch quality metrics this season are encouraging and while they fall short of his magical 2020 season, they compare pretty closely to what we last saw from him two years ago (5.00 PLV / 3.90 PLA).
The four-seamer was never his game. The big question coming into the season was whether he could get his slider back after having had Tommy John surgery. And so far, it’s performed really well.
After hitting just 11 home runs in 97 games with the Guardians, Bell’s power switch seems to have been turned on. In 14 games with the Fish, he’s slashing .309/ .377/ .636 with five home runs.
Compared to last season, some of Bell’s grades are down.
However, he’s trending in the right direction. And not just in power, but he has also shown a better eye at the plate of late. I’m curious to see how he ends the year as I think his torpid first half in Cleveland could suppress his ADP next season.
It’s been a tale of two cities for Lynn and Giolito; they started in Chicago and are now in Los Angeles. Although I’m guessing that one is having a much better time than the other.
Is it ironic or a coincidence that they have an identical PLV during that span? Months have passed, his uniform has changed, and I’m still not sure what to make of Lynn. Despite his recent success, his PLV as a whole is about average mostly because his fastball doesn’t grade out well and dilutes his score. On Thursday, he chucked a bunch of 92 mph four-seamers (44 pitches) and blanked the Brewers across seven innings. The heater earned a 4.77 PLV / 3.45 PLA, nothing to write home about. But the curveball (13 pitches) popped with a 5.41 PLV / 2.02 PLA. This season, Lynn’s cutter has led his arsenal with a 5.34 PLV / 3.04 PLA; however, he only threw eight in his latest start. Fewer cutters and more curveballs have been an interesting wrinkle through his first four starts with the Dodgers.
Giolito’s latest start against the Rangers didn’t end with ideal results, or anything close to it, but there is perhaps a silver lining in that it earned a 5.24 PLV, his best since June 28th, which was coincidentally against his new team. Of note, his changeup (29 pitches) earned an excellent 5.77 PLV / 1.76 PLA.
Unfortunately, Cortes is back on the IL with a strained rotator cuff, so it could very well be the last time we see him this year. Despite having a 4.97 ERA and 1.25 WHIP through 12 starts, he earned an excellent 5.31 PLV, fourth best among all pitchers (1,000 pitches minimum). Don’t rule him out as a bounce-back candidate for next season.
After writing about DFS and home runs and all sorts of good and bad performances, the ups and downs, you name it, I find the idea of consistency in baseball paradoxical. I appreciate the premise but like a fistful of rain, I can’t grasp it. All I see are varying shades of volatility. That is until I saw Altuve’s Hitter Performance rolling chart.
Now my brain is scrambled beyond belief. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the 2017 AL MVP, who despite two lengthy stints on the IL, is just two points shy of his career-high OPS of .957.