Identifying pitching breakouts as they happen can be hard. Anticipating them, even harder. Savvy readers of sites such as this rely on plate discipline metrics, batted ball data, and other indicators designed to tease out luck from results in order to uncover which performances have staying power and which are fleeting. And while we’ve arrived at the point in the season when most pitching rates have stabilized, a simple change in pitch mix can render those indicators obsolete. Think Matt Shoemaker and his splitter, Jake Arrieta and his cutter, Max Scherzer and his curveball, or Sonny Gray and his slider.
If you can spot a pitcher pulling unexpected arrows from his quiver as he does it, then cheers to you. But it’s difficult to do that at scale. While trying to anticipate a change in pitch mix before it happens may seem futile at times, doing so is a bet on potential. And what we talk about when we talk about “stuff,” is really potential. One of the components upon which that potential relies, aside from command and health, is an optimal pitch mix.
To identify which pitchers could benefit by throwing their more effective offerings a little more frequently, we have a number of tools at our disposal. Today, we’ll use some of those tools to identify the league’s underthrown four-seam fast balls and sinkers and the pitchers who underthrow them.
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