Pitch Type Peripherals Benchmark Update (with Matt Cain)

After talking a bit with Eno Sarris about his pitch type benchmarks, we decided to change up the process a bit. Instead of taking the full average of all of the pitches thrown in a category, we limited the pool to only pitchers who had thrown 20 innings from 2011 to 2013. And we limited the number of pitches we counted to ones that had been thrown 50 times. Hopefully this takes out gimmick pitches and small sample anomalies, for the most part. We’re focusing now on regularly-thrown pitches from somewhat-established pitchers.

We also decided to take the median value within each pitch type. This is a better representation of what’s out there — the old way could have allowed the very excellent pitches to pull the benchmarks north of what could actually be considered an average pitch. We also decided to show you where the 40% benchmark was — the ‘good’ but not ‘above average’ pitches. There are a lot of pitches thrown here that are neither ‘show-me’ pitches nor are they ‘strong’ — think ‘useful.’

Eno will take a look at Matt Cain to bring this all into focus after the new table of benchmarks.

This is your sortable table of pitch-type peripheral benchmarks for grounders and swinging strikes.

Pitch GB% SwgStr%
Type Good Above Ave Good Above Ave
SI 47.9% 50.5% 4.8% 5.6%
CU 45.4% 50.0% 9.5% 10.5%
FS 44.4% 49.4% 15.5% 16.3%
FT 44.9% 47.7% 4.5% 5.2%
CH 44.4% 46.7% 11.9% 13.7%
SL 41.2% 44.0% 13.0% 14.4%
FC 40.0% 42.4% 8.7% 9.1%
FF 34.2% 37.4% 5.6% 6.4%

By the old values, Matt Cain was only showing an above-average curve ball by peripherals, and no other pitch looked like it was average:

Pitch SwStr% GB%
FA 6.3% 33.8%
FT 4.6% 43.2%
SL 12.2% 43.1%
CH 12.5% 68.9%
CU 12.0% 34.6%

Once you take ground balls and the new benchmarks into your accounting process, you realize that Matt Cain has a full arsenal of good pitches. None stands out, but each is a real major league pitch. When added to his great customary command, it’s enough to be a very good major leaguer pitcher. So it seems that his walk rate and his command are the most important things to keep an eye on, not necessarily the whiff rates on his particular pitches.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR twice, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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9 years ago

Under the glossary section, it say that FS is the abbreviation for fastball. In the chart it says that the FS (fastball) generates 16.5% whiffs if it is above average. Is the abbreviation supposed to be SF for split-finger? Because that would generate those kind of whiffs. Not a fastball