2020 New Pitch Tracker

This marks the seventh consecutive spring for tracking new pitches at Fangraphs. In 2014, the series was launched with a piece featuring both a retired and current pitcher and their insight into adding new pitches during the offseason and/or in camp. The 2015 tracking was done at RotoJunkieFix where I serve as the CIO which is just a fancy title for the guy that keeps a 20+ year old fantasy community up and running in his spare time. By popular demand, the 2016 New Pitch Tracker gained front page real estate here and I updated it throughout the spring with help from Jeff Zimmerman and others scraping the stories from the web and the crew at BrooksBaseball helping validate the pitches. There was quite a bit of activity on the 2017 New Pitch Tracker, but it there was not as much news in 2018.

The follow-up work in 2014 showed that 17 of the 23 pitchers that faced at least 100 batters in 2014 improved their strikeout rate, 16 of 17 generated more swinging strikes while 15 of them reduced their contact rates. In 2015, even more pitchers tinkered with new pitches, but the gains were not as definitive. I did not do a follow-up piece to the 2016 new pitches to see whether gains were realized but that list included as many breakouts as it did busts. The follow-up to the 2017 new pitches showed that a few pitchers beneffited from the offseason work. Trevor BauerNathan EovaldiWade MileyJhoulys Chacin, and Marco Gonzales are some of the best examples from 2018. 2019 helped identify the new from breakouts such as Frankie Montas, Chris Paddack, Emilio Pagan, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Kirby Yates.

Below is the list of pitchers that have discussed a new pitch, a new arm angle, or tweaking things with an existing pitch in 2019. To steal from the TSA slogan: If you see something (in the news), say something (to me on Twitter). Click on the pitches below for details; WI3 = why is this important? Provides some background as to why the pitcher is working on the pitch. If you use twitter, I’ll be tagging updates with #newpitch2020:

  • Brandon Bailey (1/7) – working on new slider & cutter
    • WI3?: The Rule 5 pitcher needs to show he can pitch at the big league level. 
  • Joey Lucchesi (1/11) – working on a new changeup
    • WI3?: His wOBA by trip through the lineup: .284, .268, .385. Cutter has not been an effective third pitch & he needs something that moves away from righties
  • Rookie Davis (1/18) – turning his slurve into two distinct breaking balls
    • WI3?: He has struggled at the upper levels in his career. This is all about survival.
  • Adbert Alzolay (1/20) – adding a sinker and adjusting his changeup
  • Brady Singer (2/7) – reworking changeup
    • WI3?: Getting more separation from his fastball with the new grip on the pitch.
  • Logan Webb (2/8) – adding a cutter & going from a curve to a slurve & lowering arm angle
    • WI3?: He’s altering what was his best pitch by pVAL last year. In limited time, his RH vs RH numbers were not good, so different arm angle could help
  • Tyler Glasnow (2/8) – dropping changeup (maybe not), adding splitter
    • WI3?: Glasnow threw 30 changeups in 2019 and has never found a grip that works for his large hands. He could benefit from a pitch with some fade and run from lefties
  • Dakota Mekkes (2/10) – adding a cutter
    • WI3?: He held righties to a .180 average, but lefties hit nearly double that against him in 2019
  • Ethan Small (2/12) – adding a slider
    • WI3?: Scouting report grades his current breaking ball as his worst pitch
  • Jalen Beeks (2/12) – droping cutter, adding slider
    • WI3?: Cutter was his best pitch by pitch value last year, but he rarely threw it (6%). Two different breaking balls and his changeup can help mask the bad fastball
  • Grayson Rodriguez (2/12) – working on his changeup
    • WI3?: He had no offspeed offering coming out of school
  • Johan Oviedo (2/12) – working on a changeup
    • WI3?: The inconsistent changeup & inconsistent overall command will move him to the bullpen if both do not improve in 2020
  • Alex Wilson (2/13) – working on a new armslot
    • WI3?: Righty has had issues against same-handed batters & threw more innins in Triple-A than the majors last year. Trying to earn spot in Tiger bullpen
  • Franklin Perez (2/13) – working on a sinker
    • WI3?: He just needs reps as the former top 100 prospect has thrown fewer than 20 innings in each of the past two seasons
  • Freddy Peralta (2/15) – bringing back his slider
    • WI3?: Peralta has no real third pitch, so two breaking balls will help give him a different look and not be so reliant on his fastball. Righties punished him last year (.354 wOBA) and hit 12 of the 15 homers he allowed. Here is some video of the pitch from winter ball
  • Eric Lauer (2/16) – Brewers re-working his changeup
    • WI3?: Changeup has been his least-used pitch, for good reason. This new design could give him some much needed whiffiness
  • Trevor Williams (2/16) – adding a curveball
    • WI3?: He threw 22 of them in 2019, 15 in September. The slider has negative pVals for his career, so two different breaking balls off the fastball could help him rediscover his 2018 success.
  • Ross Stripling (2/16) – tinkering with his changeup grip
    • WI3?: He threw 157 changeups in 2016 and the league hit .167 off the pitch. He’s thrown 213 of them each of the past two seasons and the league has hit .241 and .264 off the changeup. Movement measures have it losing four inches of vertical movement since 2017.
  • Chris Paddack (2/16) – retooling his curveball
    • WI3?: Was his clear third pitch last year by usage and effectiveness. A better curveball would give him three above-average pitches and opposing hitters nightmares.
  • Wade Miley (2/17) – working on a split-change
    • WI3?: His changeup was his best pitch by run values last season, so unclear if this will be a second off-speed pitch or him tweaking what worked very well for him in 2019.
  • Masahiro Tanaka (2/17) – working on his cutter
    • WI3?: He threw the pitch 45 times (1.6%) last season, and the pitch had a .502 wOBA. He had a terrible 2019 vs LHB (.349 wOBA), so a more effective cutter to them can help get him back on track vs LHB.
  • Paul Blackburn (2/17) – working on a Montas-influenced splitter & dropping his normal changeup
    • WI3?: His normal change has 5-6 mph separation from his sinker and has not really done much for him. Splitter would give him more separation and movement and allow him to use the same two fingers he uses for his sinker vs throwing off the middle two fingers
  • A.J. Puk (2/17) – bringing back his pre-TJ changeup
    • WI3?: Scouts grade it as a 55-60 pitch, but Puk was not comfortable using it as much last year as the pronation movement was not comfortable yet. It is now.
  • Ryan Helsley (2/17) – mimicking deGrom’s changeup grip
    • WI3?: 88% of his 2019 pitches were fastball or cutter. A better changeup should increase his whiffiness
  • Zach Daniels (2/20) – has a new cutter & re-tooled slider
    • WI3?: Comes to his first year of full-season baseball with a four-pitch repertoire when most guys are lucky to have two pitches.
  • Oliver Drake (2/21) – working on a slutter
    • WI3?: His fastball/splitter combo has been tough on lefties (.277 wOBA), but righties have done decidedly better (.343 wOBA), and he has allowed 15 home runs in 90.2 innings of work against righties. Another pitch which moves away from righties would help, especially with the three-batter rule in place.
  • Kenley Jansen (2/21) – working on a new slider grip with Hershisher and Honeycutt
    • WI3?: He threw double the sliders in 2019 than he did in 2018 in fewer innings of work. The pitch performed very well last year, but did lose some Whiff% year over year. New shape could mean more swing and miss.
  • Nate Pearson (2/21) – working on improving his curveball
    • WI3?: His fastball and slider are well ahead of his changeup, and a curveball he considers his fourth-best pitchHe needs one of of his curve and change to take a step forward.
  • Nick Pivetta (2/22) – re-working his delivery and working on a changeup
    • WI3?: Last year’s wide-awake sleeper was a statistical nightmare. The work on his mechanics and adding an offspeed pitch should help him get back on track.
  • Trent Thornton (2/22) – re-working his changeup
    • WI3?: His chanegup last year was often classified as a splitter, but he was throwing a circle-change last year. It was a below-average pitch in both horizontal and vertical movement last year, yet the league hit .120 off the pitch. Expected stats say it could have been worse with the pitch, so reworking it is a pro-active measure. 
  • Bryse Wilson (2/23) – changing from a regular slider to a spike-slider
    • WI3?: Even admits in the interview he’s not wholly confident in the pitch yet. Spiked breaking balls are tougher to command, so perhaps it becomes a chase pitch for him when he’s up in the count vs something he’s comfortable using any time in the count.
  • Dillon Peters (2/24) – developing a slider to use against lefties
    • WI3?: He threw 45 sliders to lefties last season, and the batters hit .462 off the pitch. He threw the pitch less than five percent overall, so it qualifies as a new pitch, but this is essentially retooling a pitch that was ineffective for him last season.
  • Jonathan Loaisiga (2/24) – working on a slider
    • WI3?: It would give him two different breaking balls. He throws his curve about half as often to lefties as he does righties, so perhaps this slider will help there. Righties had a 53 percent whiff rate on his curve last year and hit .042 when they put it into play. Lefties had a 28 percent whiff rate on the pitch and hit .250 against the pitch. If the slider shows up, look for it vs the lefties.
  • Brad Keller (2/25) – is adding a curveball
    • WI3?: Keller is two fastballs and a slider, so he is working with a curveball as a third offering to lefties. He is effective against righties, but his previous repertoire left him more susceptible to lefties whose wOBA is 39 points higher than what righties have done against Keller in his career.
  • Devin Smeltzer (2/25) – is adding a slider
    • WI3?: From the article – “Because Smeltzer established his changeup against Major League hitters last year, he said that the goal with the slider is to prevent right-handed hitters from cheating to the changeup by leaning over the plate. The Twins’ data also shows that the slider could also be a more effective pitch against left-handed hitters than his curveball.”
  • Vince Velasquez (2/26) – is bringing his changeup back
    • WI3?: His usage of the pitch has been in a steep four-year decline, and lefties have hit him harder as a result. Getting some more swing and miss in his approach to lefties is needed.
  • Anibal Sanchez (2/26) – is working on a dirty new pitch
    • WI3?: Because he refuses to name it, but congrats to him for adding a 16th pitch to his repertoire!
  • Chad Green (2/26) – is adding a curveball
    • WI3?: It would give him two distinct breaking balls and a better high-low pairing off his elevated fastball. He was split-neutral in 2019, so this is more like pairing up food with a better beverage to bring out the full flavor after a season which involved a bit of reliever volatility. 
  • Asher Wojciechowski (2/26) -working on a split-change
    • WI3?: He threw 34 changeups last year and the league had a .527 xwOBA off the pitch. 
  • Sean Manaea (2/27) – is refining his slider after chatting with Randy Johnson & a cutter
    • WI3?: His slider is already a good pitch, but when the Big Unit speaks, you listen. If the pitch gets even better, ooooh boy. 
  • Garrett Richards (2/27) – is working on bringing back his changeup
    • WI3? He threw 56 of them in 2016, and one since then. He discussed in the article how watching Chris Paddack use his changeup has given him the urge to try his grip and process.
  • John Means (2/28) – emphasizing the curveball this spring
    • WI3?: He used his curveball less than any other pitch in 2019, with good reason. The League had a .617 wOBA off his curveball and slugged 1.042 off the offering. He throws both a slider and curve to righties, but the curve was thrown 19 times to lefties. That’s where we should look for more utilization of the pitch.
  • Jacob deGrom (2/28) – working on a backdoor version of his slider
    • WI3?: His slider is already awesome, but it’s great to see the best trying to get better. deGrom’s slider had a 38 percent Whiff%  and a 31 percent PutAway% vs RHB last season. Those numbers fell to 32 and 19 percent respectively against lefties as he predominately used the pitch on the inner half against lefties. This new look could give them something else to worry about in 2020.
  • Chase Anderson (3/2) – working on his curveball
    • WI3?: His 2019 curveball utilization was the worst of his career, as was the pVAL on the pitch. He needs that pitch back so he can soak up the innings Toronto needs him to do in 2020.
  • A whole den of Cubs pitchers (3/2) – working in the pitch lab (a must-read article!)
  • Josh Hader (3/2) – working on a changeup
    • WI3?: Hader clearly does not strike out enough guys or get enough swings and misses….he may cause a batter to dislocate a kneecap while swinging at a changeup this year if this pitch design works for him.
  • Jordan Lyles (3/4) – reworking his changeup
    • WI3?: It has been a below-average pitch for him, so getting better movement with it will help his 2020 fortunes.
  • Wade Davis (3/4) – is bringing back his changeup
    • WI3?: Even when he was a starting pitcher, the pitch was never a thing for him. He’s rarely thrown one as a reliever, but he needs to change something up the way he has pitched lately.
  • Tyler Mahle (3/4) – working on a slider as his putaway pitch
    • WI3?: He is looking for a better chase pitch in two-strike counts and the curve wasn’t working for him, so he’s adding a slider for that purpose giving him two different breaking balls.
  • Danny Duffy (3/4) – has new velocity on his slider
    • WI3?: 87 mph sliders are more like cutters when paired with a 92 mph fastball. Interested to see the new shape of the pitch against his curveball.
  • Jose Quintana (3/4) – working on a cutter
    • WI3?: The pitch has disappeared from his repertoire in recent years, so it is curious it is potentially coming back. Perhaps he will use the pitch against righties, who hit him very well last year.
  • Caleb Ferguson (3/6) – adding a slider
    • WI3?: He’s been all fastball + curveball and righties, and while it’s holding lefties at bay (.303 wOBA), righties have been tough on him (.350 wOBA) in his time at the major league level. A usable third pitch would open up opportunities on the pitching staff for him. 
  • Justus Sheffield (3/7) – adding a two-seamer
    • WI3?: He had the fourth-worst spin rate on his four-seamer of qualified pitchers last season, so moving to a low-spin two-seamer makes more sense for him. Still — more sliders and fewer fastballs would be the key for him taking a step closer to his ceiling.
  • Patrick Weigel (3/8) – dropping the circle-change for a splitter
    • WI3?: He said he lost the feel for his change-up post-TJ surgery because of the impact on his ring finger. Feels like he has more control and feel of the splitter.

We hoped you liked reading 2020 New Pitch Tracker by Jason Collette!

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Joser
Member
Joser

I was confused by WI3 being the abbreviation for “Why Is This Important” when the obvious acronym, WITI, would be clear enough. Then I finally realized it was WI^3 and was supposed to stand for (I’m guessing) “Why Is It Important”?