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, PLV is not adjusted for pitch type).
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, 8/31).
On Tuesday, Steele shut out the Brewers across six innings while earning his 11th win of the season. The lefty’s first scoreless outing since June 30th against Cleveland pushed his season ERA down to 2.69 a pretty decent improvement from last year’s 3.18 ERA. Since you know the slider is his go-to pitch, the question you might be thinking is has it done anything different this season? Well, good I’m glad you asked because we’ve got some fun pitchtype cards to look at, which you can find here courtesy of Kyle Bland (@blandalytics on Twitter).
The definitions straight from the app linked above are listed here for reference.
Velocity: Release speed of the pitch, out of the pitcher’s hand (in mph).
Release Extension: Distance towards the plate when the pitcher releases the pitch (in feet).
Induced Vertical Break: Vertical break of the pitch, controlling for the effect of gravity (in inches).
Arm-Side Break: Horizontal break of the pitch, relative to the pitcher’s handedness (in inches).
Adjusted Vertical Approach Angle (VAA): Vertical angle at which the pitch approaches home plate, controlling for its vertical location at the plate (in degrees).
xZone %: Predicted likelihood of the pitch being in the strike zone (as is called), assuming a swing isn’t made.
The pitchtype cards are a really fun way to visualize what makes a particular pitch unique, so be sure to check them out, and like the other PLV apps, it goes back to the 2020 season.
Steele’s slider is unique in that it has a fairly steep Vertical Approach Angle (VAA). And that was the case last year too; if you check out his card from last season on the app you’ll see his slider was even slightly steeper last year (-1.7 degrees). This year, Steele’s slider has shown noticeably less vertical break at -2.6″ compared to -4.6″ last season but with just about the same arm-side break (-14.8″ last season). The slider’s xZone% has increased this year about two ticks from 41.2% to 43.3%.
As a disclaimer I’m new at looking at this stuff but as far as I can tell, aside from the two-inch decrease in IVB, the physical characteristics of Steele’s slider look fairly similar relative to last year. So I’m thinking that Steele’s results this year are at least in part a product of better command/location. Whatever the exact case may be, there’s no denying that the pitch quality metrics of Steele’s slider are noticeably better this year (5.47 PLV) as opposed to last year (5.18 PLV).
Cease, along with the entire White Sox team, has been one of the biggest disappointments of the season. His double-digit walk rate makes him more susceptible than others but even still I don’t think anyone could’ve anticipated a 4.91 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. His brutal campaign continued last Friday with a clunker against, of all teams, the A’s: eight earned runs on nine hits along with five walks through four and a third. Suffice it to say, that PLV was not a fan of the slider (38 pitches) as it earned a 4.65 PLV and 6.64 PLA. Yikes.
Unlike Steele’s slider, Cease’s has undoubtedly fallen on hard times this year compared to last season. Let’s take a look.
Interesting to see that his release extension is slightly different (6.3 ft vs. 6.0 ft) and it makes me wonder if there’s something off about his release point. Anyways, there are dropoffs across the board, including velocity (-1.2 mph), and arm-side break (-4.2″ to -2.7″). In addition, the slider’s induced vertical break (drop) has gone from -0.9″ to 0.5″ and it’s lost about four points in xZone%. Hard to come away with anything positive here. At this point, he might just need to reset everything so to speak this offseason. On that note, maybe he gets traded?
The Tigers’ 2016 first-round pick has been absolutely brilliant of late and most recently flummoxed the Yankees with six scoreless innings. In 12 starts since returning from the IL on June 27th, he has a 3.44 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. The WHIP is absolutely wild to me considering his K rate of 15.8%. I’ll admit I’m biased in favor of strikeouts so I very much want to ignore Manning since he’s never really flashed much in that regard. But putting my predilections aside, he’s a former top prospect, and his PLV during the aforementioned 12-start span is an impressive 5.20. For Manning, it’s all about his slider, which PLV loves. Manning’s slider PLA of 1.61 is tied for the best among all pitchers with at least 500 pitches thrown.
It’s been an absolutely horrific season for Severino. But he has now linked together two consecutive scoreless outings. Is he back? Well, the two games were against the Nats and Tigers, so there’s that. But there’s also the fact Severino’s latest start against the Tigers earned a 5.18 PLV with a 35.4% CSW both season highs. Maybe, just maybe, he’s rebounding. A much more daunting litmus test lies ahead– the Astros.
The 22-year-old lefty dazzled during his Oracle Park debut this past Monday and struck out 11 Reds. We’re all off 156 pitches in, so the sample size is far from steady but so far so good: A 5.36 PLV.
Megill holds a 5.29 ERA and 1.68 WHIP through 20 starts. But he gave us a little glimpse of hope in his latest start against the Rangers with a season-high eight strikeouts backed by a 31.3% CSW (2nd-best all year). The outing earned a 4.96 PLV. Sure, that might not look great at first blush but that’s his highest grade since June 9th against the Pirates. Coincidentally, that start was a bad one. Regardless, keep an eye on Megill. His slider in particular has shown some signs of life having recorded a PLV over 5.00 in three straight outings.
This past Tuesday, Cobb lost a no-hit bid with two outs in the ninth. The other big story is his splitter. The fact that he threw 83 of them is kind of mind-blowing. Regardless, “the thing” returned a 5.16 PLV. In his previous start against the Phillies, the splitter returned an even better 6.57 PLV on 47 pitches. You know how mercurial splitters can be but Cobb could be set up for a strong finish.
He’s an easy pitcher to forget since he’s been working out of the pen all year but the Yankees recently shifted him to the rotation as an audition for next year. King has shown above-average pitch quality metrics this season out of the pen. If it translates as a starter is the question. After opening for Jhony Brito last Thursday, we got our first real glimpse of King as a starter against the Tigers. He did a pretty decent job and got through four innings on 61 pitches while earning a 5.24 PLV. There’s a chance he could be a decent streaming option in the last week or two but he’s probably more of a name to file away for next season.
The South Korean left-hander has given the Blue Jays a nice boost since returning to the rotation on August 1st and holds a 2.25 ERA and 1.00 WHIP through his first five starts. His signature changeup has compared reasonably well to the last time we got a good look at it back in 2021.
Yes, I know you know he’s awesome but let’s take a second to appreciate the 2018 AL MVP who slashed an absolutely absurd .455/ .516/ .839 across 28 games in August. In case you’re wondering, he’s one of seven players with a 75 grade in HP or better; Shohei Ohtani and Corey Seager are the only two at 80 (min 550 pitches).
How about Rengifo? His 1.272 OPS over the last 15 days (12 games) is fifth among qualifiers. This year he’s shown a big bump in decision value from 40 to 55. It could very well be smoke and mirrors but I’m interested in the fact that he’s cut his swing aggression down a bit from 9.8% to 3.3% along with the increase in DV. Plus, take a look at his HP rolling chart and tell me you aren’t at least a little interested.
Oviedo tossed his first career complete-game shutout against the Royals last Monday but the big night earned just a 4.69 PLV, well below average so this seems like it might have been just a one-night blip as opposed to a legit breakthrough.
Canning stacked up nine strikeouts against the Mets in his return to the rotation. His slider (25 pitches / 5.30 PLV) and changeup (17 pitches / 5.46 PLV) impressed. Overall, he’s earned a 5.10 PLV with his slider (5.38 PLV) and curveball (5.22 PLV) grading out as above-average offerings. He’s flashed a 26.5% K rate this year and looks like a pretty decent play down the stretch.
Saving the best for last. What? You thought I wasn’t going to mention Cole Ragans this week? No chance. Another great outing from the mustachioed left-hander who blanked the Pirates over seven innings while striking out nine. The slider (20 pitches) led the way earning a 5.70 PLV. Overall, Ragans’ slider has earned a 1.83 pitch type PLA which is fifth-best among all pitchers with at least 500 pitches thrown. I’ll be fascinated to see where his ADP ends up next year.