Shortly after the onset of last season, I dug into pitch-level statistics to see how much swinging strike rate (SwStr%), ground ball rate (GB%), and isolated power (ISO) varied by pitch type. I felt inspired after analyzing Madison Bumgarner before the 2018 season and noticed his fastball, once elite, was utterly broken after his dirt bike accident. (See his 2018 player caption and this July post in which I followed up MadBum’s lack of progress.) I felt encouraged by the praise the post received from readers and fellow analysts alike for the clarity it provided. I’d like to think it helped move the needle, even if only slightly, in terms of how we evaluate pitchers.
I wanted to refresh the guts of that post for the 2018 season with additional metrics. There’s not much else to discuss; this’ll be short and sweet. (I’ll toss in some gratuitous high-level analysis following these tables.)
- All data is courtesy of PITCHf/x via Baseball Prospectus
- All tables present average rates for starting pitchers only
- Due to pitch tracking/stringing not being perfectly precise, the numbers below are highly accurate but not completely so and may not align exactly with FanGraphs’ batted ball data (for example, Baseball Info Solution strings far fewer line drives than does PITCHf/x)
- Click headers to sort!
Batted ball outcomes by pitch:
Hitter production allowed by pitch:
Due to limitations with the data, wOBA is approximated (but still highly accurate)
- Sliders, change-ups, and curves are good. Four-seamers and sinkers are bad. Splitters are an enigma!
- Seriously, don’t throw a sinker.
- No, I’m kidding a little — throw a sinker, but only if it’s actually good. Power sinkers preferred. (Just discussed this regarding Chris Archer recently.)
- Most pitchers could improve by optimizing their repertoires to include more breaking stuff in place of fastballs, or to more frequently lean on, say, a two-seamer in lieu of a four-seamer.
- That said, the way a pitcher’s offerings interact is important.
- Lastly: I’ve seen a lot of analysis using pitch values recently. Pitch values are the ERA of pitch-level analysis, as it’s entirely outcome-driven. Does ERA tell the full story? Never. It can be truthful, yes. However, almost every baseball fan has already learned to approach ERA with a healthy amount of skepticism. Do the same with pitch values. Use the information above to further refine your understanding of pitch values as a description of a pitch’s effectiveness.
Currently investigating the relationship between pitcher effectiveness and beard density. Two-time FSWA award winner, including 2018 Baseball Writer of the Year, and 5-time award finalist. Featured in Lindy's Sports' Fantasy Baseball magazine (2018, 2019). Tout Wars competitor. Biased toward a nicely rolled baseball pant.