The Best pVals in 2023: Offspeed/Breaking Ball Edition

Part one of this installment looked at four-seam fastballs and cutters. Part two analyzed sinkers and splitters. Part three, our final act, will detail sliders, curveballs, and changeups.

wCU – Changeup RAA

Webb’s changeup pVal of 29.4 marks the highest total among all pitches in 2023. According to his statcast page, Webb was in the 100th percentile with his offspeed run value. His changeup (111 Stuff+) was excellent, he located it so well in the bottom of the zone, but his sinker (106 Stuff+) was also very good. He utilized both pitches with around the same frequency, throwing the changeup 41.6%, and the sinker 33.6% of the time. Hitters may have thought, “I’m going to see one of two pitches, right?” Well sure, but here’s what they look like coming down the pipe, take your pick:

Logan Webb 3D Pitches

Baseball Savant

Notice how similar the green (changeup) and the orange (sinker) look coming out of the hand. They both have the same general path to the plate but the changeup (green) continued to drop while the sinker (orange) stayed up in the zone. Speaking of staying up in the zone, his four-seam fastball stayed up in the zone so well, yet he used it exclusively for left-handed batters.

Logan Webb Four-Seamer Location

Webb faced nearly an equal amount of both left and right-handed batters in 2023, but the extra pitch really benefited his wOBA where lefties only produced a .260 vs righties who got to Webb for a still low .308. Webb’s pitch mix left/right approach, and excellent location (104 Location+, 10th among qualified starters) made him the 10th most valuable starting pitcher in 2023 according to our auction calculator.

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wCU/C – Changeup RAA/100

As good as Logan Webb was at throwing his changeup on a daily basis, Miles Mikolas was more efficient with his. He threw his version only 5.4% (statcast) of the time and that small sample is probably what helped him. He was four-seam, sinker, slider heavy, throwing each around 25% of the time. Here’s how useful the changeup was for Mikolas; his “Fastball Run-Value” as it’s shown on his player page was in the 6th percentile, but his “Offspeed Run-Value” was in the 91st percentile! It seems like that “Offspeed Run-Value” is only really including his changeup, so we’re kind of just going around in circles at this point. Needless to say, when he threw it, his changeup was good. Here’s one of the eight swings and misses Mikolas recorded on the pitch in 2023:

wSL – Slider RAA

Is this real life? Sonny Gray had the best slider amongst qualified pitchers in 2023? Yes, yes he did. Not only that (spoiler alert), he also had the most efficient slider among qualified pitchers in 2023 as you will see below. Statcast calls it a sweeper and PitchInfo calls it a slider, but whatever you call it, call it a good pitch. Gray’s slider was strange, looky here:

  • Zone%: 31.1% MLB Avg: 40.9%
  • SwStr%: 22.6% MLB Avg: 15.2%
  • CS%: 5.4% MLB Avg: 14.4%
  • AVG/wOBA/BABIP: .097/.114/.216 MLB Avg: .235/.303/.284

*According to PitcherList.com

Gray’s slider was in the zone way less often than average, yet it was swung on and missed way more than average and it hardly ever got called for a strike. Hitters attacked it, but they didn’t do squat with it. So, what made the pitch so difficult to square up? A huge movement profile compared to the average could have had something to do with it. It moved a league-leading 7.3 vertical inches vs the average. The only other pitchers with that much vertical movement were relievers or Bryce Miller. Oddly enough, Gray’s slider ranked 122 in the Stuff+ department, good for a ninth-place finish among qualified pitchers. His slider Location+ was a little better and his slider Pitching+ was a little more better. All of those things came together to make this pitch a gem, leading Gray to his third-best ERA of his career at 2.79. Let’s take a look at how Sonny Gray’s slider made Andrés Giménez sliiiiide on back to the dugout:

wSL/C – Slider RAA/100

    • Winner: Sonny Gray 2.90
    • Runners up: Kyle Gibson 2.07, Logan Gilbert 1.80, Kyle Bradish 1.80

Sonny Gray won in bulk and won in efficiency, but behind all that sunshine came the members of the slider squads, the Mariners and the Orioles. In fact, Seattle and Baltimore had the first and second-highest slider Stuff+ team scores in the major leagues. I’m ignoring the fact that Gibson is classified as throwing a sweeper, but the pitch was still efficient. Let’s give some love to all three with GIF viewing:

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wCU – Curveball RAA

Here comes the big hook! Charlie Morton bulked his way to a pVal championship. He threw the curve 43.2% of the time, nearly 12% more often than the next guy, Aaron Nola. Hitters knew it was coming and knew where it would end up, but still couldn’t hit it.

Charlie Morton Curveball Loc

The movement profile of Morton’s curveball doesn’t necessarily top the statcast leaderboard with only 0.9 inches of vertical movement compared to it’s average, and four inches of horizontal movement. That horizontal movement used to be much higher, upwards of 8.7 inches in 2018. But Morton’s curve was third among qualified pitchers in Stuff+ (139) behind Corbin Burnes (160) and Sandy Alcantara (161). So why aren’t those other Stuff+ leaders among the top four pVal leaders? They just threw it less often, much less often in Alcantara’s case (2.4%). Corbin Burnes held back at 17.2% but kept it’s usage at a curveball-like level. Morton? He just bulked his way in with a really good pitch:

wCU/C – Curveball RAA/100

  • Winner: Kyle Bradish 3.97
  • Runners up: Justin Steele 2.57, Blake Snell 2.56, Charlie Morton 1.79

Once again, Kyle Bradish makes the list of good run-prevention pitches in 2023. Bradish matched Corbin Burnes in usage at 17.2% and placed right behind Morton with a 135 Stuff+. He produced a quality pitch according to all three Stuff+ measurements compared to Morton:

  • Bradish
    • Stuff+: 126 Location+: 103 Pitching+: 105
  • Morton
    • Stuff+: 106 Location+: 96 Pitching+: 98

Don’t forget about 2023’s Cy Young award winner, Blake Snell. His 2023 curveball was 12th best in Stuff+, but his PitchInfo total pVal was a career-best among any pitch at 16.0.

It’s nice to look back on individual pitches to see how pitchers earned their success at the end of the season. I’m thankful for the opportunity to analyze some of these great pitches from so many different angles, but I’m even more thankful that I don’t have to try to hit them in front of thousands of people.





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Creamymember
3 months ago

Great stuff—literally and figuratively!