Discarded/Lesser-Used Pitches

Pitch arsenals are always evolving and while we often discuss new pitches being featured by guys, the ones that fall by the wayside don’t get as much run. Let’s look at a handful of pitches that have either disappeared altogether or if they still throw it, it has experienced at least a 10-point drop.

FOUR SEAMERS

Dane Dunning, TEX | -21% to 0%

Dunning split his fastball usage between a four-seamer and sinker last year, but this year it has essentially been all sinkers (66%) and a couple of cutters (5%). The four-seamer generated a -2.3 Pitch Value/100 (PV/100) thrown last year while the sinker was at 3.4 so he got rid of the bad pitch and funneled into the one that was working. The results have remained solid with a 2.6 PV/100, good for 21st of the 129 pitchers with at least 10 innings so far. While we have seen many pitchers ditch their sinkers for more four-seamers, Dunning is going the other way and it is working for him.

Joe Musgrove, SDP | -15% to 13%

While we haven’t seen him completely discard his four-seamer, he has halved its output and channeled it into a cutter, which he is throwing 25% of the time this year (up from 6% last year). All three pitches were negative PV/100 last year. The cutter is at 1.8 PV/100 so far, but the four-seamer has gotten worse, going from -1.2 PV/100 to -3.7… maybe he should use it even less than his 13% rate right now. The sinker does have a 5.9 PV/100, but he is using it just 7% of the time so let’s not get too excited about it at this point. Maybe drops those four-seamers into the sinker going forward?

CUTTER

Casey Mize, DET | -20% to 0%

This is a bit of a classification situation as he didn’t necessarily throw a distinct cutter last year, but had more of a slutter and even some sliders that were categorized as cutters. That said, the classification outlets agree that he is no longer doing that and the drop in cutter usage is almost identical to his jump in slider usage (24%). The only real difference is break and that is why it can vacillate between a cutter and slider.

It is an 88-mph pitch and with improvements in both horizontal and vertical break, it is operating more as a true slider this year. He definitely needs it to be more slider than cutter as his arsenal gets pretty similar across four pitches otherwise if it’s four-seamer, sinker, splitter, and cutter (mostly fastballs, only vertical movement).

Shane Bieber, CLE | -16% to 0%

This isn’t like Mize as Bieber did have a distinct cutter and slider last year. There was a 5-mph difference (89 for CT, 84 for SL) and the slider had quite a bit more drop. The cutter had a 2.8 PV/100 last year so it wasn’t discarded because of performance, but the slider is even better with a 4.1 PV/100 so far this year. He has picked up right where his 2020 Cy Young season left off.

CHANGEUP

Tarik Skubal, DET | -16% to 0%

It was advertised that Skubal would be featuring a new splitter coming into this year, but it seems to have simply replaced his changeup. The two pitches aren’t that different, so it seems that the splitter is just a much worse changeup by another name, though he is only using it 11% of the time. The changeup had a -1.1 PV/100 and the splitter is at really rough -7.7 PV/100 so far. Nothing is particularly working for Skubal early on, so it is hard to pin it all on the changeup/splitter conundrum.

Jose Urquidy, HOU | -12% to 9%

Urquidy’s arsenal is very different thus far. He had four pitches of at least 12% last year, but he has just two this year with his changeup taking the biggest hit. It was his second-most thrown pitch last year at 21%, but now it and the curveball are essentially show-me offerings while his slider usage is up 16 points to 29%.

He is having success through three starts with a 4.50 ERA, 3.41 SIERA, and 1.25 WHIP in 16 IP, though it is a bit uneven with a .357 BABIP and 65% LOB rate being counterbalanced by a 29% K rate. With just a 10% swinging strike rate, I’m find the strikeout surge a bit suspect right now. I am still completely in on Urquidy and I’ll be monitoring him to see if his pitch arsenal moves back toward 2019-20 levels.





Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Bob Anderson
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Bob Anderson

Sit Urquidy at Coors this week? Rox are not tearing cover off ball so far. Is Coors auto-sit for all but elite arms?