The New Nasty

Talent changes are easier to identify with pitchers earlier in the season, as changes in velocity, pitch shape, and pitch mix are more readily apparent. Change isn’t always good and turning one bad pitch into a good one isn’t a guarantee of success but it’s a pretty good start.

When a pitch has seen dramatically different results against it, chances are something changed, whether solely involving the aforementioned qualities above, or how the pitches fit together as part of a player’s pitch mix whole. Change is everywhere and ongoing, we just have to find the where and (hopefully) why.

Using Run Value (RV/100 pitches) as our barometer, we’ll see what we can see about which pitchers have seen the most dramatic turnaround with one (or more) of their offerings. Remember that RV is the total run impact, according to the base-count state when the pitch was thrown. The more negative, the better.

Headed into Monday’s action, here are the top-50 pitches among starting pitchers that have seen the biggest decrease in their RV/100 since last season, with a minimum threshold of 50 individual pitches thrown in 2021 and 100 pitches in 2020.

2021 Run Value Improvements
Name Pitch 2020 Use 2021 Use Use +/- 2020 rv100 2021 rv100 Run Value +/-
Anthony DeSclafani Sinker 23 23 0 4.2 -3.4 -7.6
Carlos Martínez Four Seam 36 25 -10 3.7 -3.4 -7.1
Michael Fulmer Four Seam 28 21 -7 3.7 -2.7 -6.4
John Means Changeup 25 29 5 1.6 -4.4 -6.0
Sean Manaea Curveball 14 15 1 4.3 -1.6 -5.9
Tyler Anderson Cutter 18 28 10 2.8 -2.7 -5.5
Triston McKenzie Slider 20 15 -6 0.2 -5.1 -5.3
Matthew Boyd Curveball 23 22 -1 3.6 -1.4 -5.0
Michael Fulmer Sinker 35 27 -8 4.0 -1.0 -5.0
Justin Dunn Slider 23 33 10 2.9 -2.1 -5.0
Anthony DeSclafani Four Seam 29 26 -3 3.4 -1.4 -4.8
Dane Dunning Slider 22 23 2 2.2 -2.5 -4.7
Jordan Montgomery Curveball 22 24 2 1.1 -3.5 -4.6
Vince Velasquez Curveball 16 20 4 0.7 -3.8 -4.5
Josh Fleming Cutter 29 29 -1 2.3 -2.1 -4.4
JT Brubaker Four Seam 14 23 9 4.3 0.0 -4.3
Danny Duffy Slider 17 21 4 2.6 -1.7 -4.3
Lance McCullers Jr. Curveball 38 24 -14 0.8 -3.4 -4.2
Yu Darvish Curveball 12 12 0 1.4 -2.6 -4.0
Robbie Ray Four Seam 47 61 13 2.8 -1.1 -3.9
Martín Pérez Sinker 18 21 4 0.5 -3.4 -3.9
Sonny Gray Slider 16 15 -2 2.4 -1.4 -3.8
Patrick Corbin Four Seam 17 30 13 2.4 -1.3 -3.7
JT Brubaker Sinker 35 25 -10 1.2 -2.5 -3.7
Madison Bumgarner Curveball 23 22 0 2.2 -1.4 -3.6
Jeff Hoffman Changeup 27 13 -14 0.0 -3.4 -3.4
Max Scherzer Changeup 16 15 -1 1.7 -1.7 -3.4
Aaron Civale Four Seam 29 8 -21 0.4 -3.0 -3.4
Chase Anderson Sinker 34 38 4 3.8 0.4 -3.4
Tyler Glasnow Curveball 35 14 -21 0.1 -3.2 -3.3
Kyle Gibson Four Seam 36 37 2 2.9 -0.4 -3.3
Kris Bubic Sinker 54 48 -6 0.9 -2.4 -3.3
Steven Matz Sinker 54 45 -9 2.8 -0.5 -3.3
Lance Lynn Cutter 22 27 5 -1.0 -4.2 -3.2
Justin Dunn Slider 16 15 -2 0.3 -2.9 -3.2
David Peterson Changeup 19 15 -3 2.9 -0.2 -3.1
Lewis Thorpe Four Seam 47 47 0 4.0 0.9 -3.1
Steven Matz Changeup 27 27 0 3.3 0.3 -3.0
Frankie Montas Split Finger 13 16 3 5.3 2.3 -3.0
Dylan Cease Four Seam 48 54 6 1.5 -1.4 -2.9
Pablo López Four Seam 32 32 -1 -0.1 -3.0 -2.9
Brett Anderson Sinker 41 50 9 0.6 -2.2 -2.8
Jacob deGrom Changeup 17 13 -4 -1.3 -4.0 -2.7
Sonny Gray Four Seam 26 21 -5 -1.0 -3.7 -2.7
Trevor Rogers Slider 22 15 -7 2.5 -0.1 -2.6
Carlos Martínez Sinker 28 24 -5 2.7 0.2 -2.5
José Ureña Sinker 42 49 7 2.4 -0.1 -2.5
Jake Arrieta Slider 52 59 7 2.3 -0.2 -2.5
Trevor Rogers Four Seam 54 63 8 0.8 -1.6 -2.4
Bryse Wilson Four Seam 46 40 -7 1.4 -1.0 -2.4

 

Danny Duffy, KC – Slider

Danny Duffy only has one pitch in the top-50 but his changeup (-2.4 RV/100) and sinker (-1.0 RV/100) were both in the top-60 and have been above-average pitches in 2021 after being ho-hum in 2020. However, it’s his slider that has seen the most dramatic turnaround, going from a 2.6 RV/100 in 2020 to a -1.7 RV/100 this season.

The slider, along with an improved pitch mix has helped Duffy return top-20 fantasy value thus far in 2021, coming in as the SP 17  in 12-team leagues with standard 5×5 settings, according to the FanGraphs auction calculator. Take those values with a large chunk of salt, as we’re only a month in and values change rapidly. But they can help provide early context to success and his four wins, 40 strikeouts, 1.26 ERA, and 1.07 WHIP over 35.2 IP are already banked, with Duffy looking at two manageable starts coming up (@ DET, vs MIL).

I’m really just trying to soften the blow for everyone in case we’re living in a world where the first-place Kansas City Royals head into the summer led by top-15 fantasy ace, Danny Duffy. Read that last part out loud.

 

Jacob deGrom, NYM – Changeup

As further evidence that we might be living in a simulation, Jacob deGrom added a plus to his already plus-changeup, increasing its overall drop by 1.8 inches and its drop vs average (as compared to similar velocity and extension) moving into an elite tier after increasing from 2.0 inches to 3.4 inches. After posting a 21.9% SwStr% the previous two seasons, his changeup had a 23.2% SwStr% following his most recent start.

To recap, after bumping up his average velocity to 98.9 mph in 2020, deGrom is getting more movement from his changeup without sacrificing any of his 2020 velocity, keeping the separation between it and his four-seamer (5.7 mph in 2019, 7.2 mph in 2020, 7.6 mph in 2021) roughly the same.

At this point, the only thing that makes sense* is that we actually are in a simulation where deGrom is a create-a-player and some kid is dedicated to maxing out all of his attributes one-by-one, at the expense of the offense, defense, and general good fortune of every other Met. “Press A to unlock Bugs Bunny changeup in exchange for rest of team using frying pan gloves”.

*And then deGrom got hurt, leaving his Sunday start after the always ominous trainer’s visit. It appears that even advanced life-forms running our planet as a video game are unable to stop Mets stuff from happening to the Mets.

 

Michael Fulmer, DET – Four-Seam Fastball, Sinker

Fulmer is one of nine pitchers to make the list twice, with his four-seamer (3rd) and sinker (8th) both landing inside the top-10 and the four-seamer posting a 13.3% SwStr% and 37.5% Whiff% that is up from 3.4% and 8.5% in 2020, respectively. The questions about Fulmer are still the same as from when he was good…Can he be good for more than four innings (or even one)? Honestly, I wish the Tigers would just save us a bunch of time and make him their closer.

Regardless, here are these four seams as they rise up:

 

Anthony DeSclafani, SF – Sinker, Four-Seam Fastball

One of seven pitchers with two pitches in the top-50, I feel like this player will mysteriously get hurt if we say his name too many times, like some sort of injury-prone Beetlejuice or Candyman. So, let’s just call him Disco. The San Francisco starter’s sinker went from the worst among qualified pitchers in 2020 (4.2 RV/100), to a -3.4 RV/100 that is the best and is currently clocking in as the SP 25 according to the auction calculator. Not too shabby for someone with a 450 ADP entering the season.

DeSclafani (I’m sure twice is fine) has a 2.40 ERA (3.34 FIP, 3.57 xFIP, 3.73 SIERA) through seven starts in 2021 and lines up to face the Pirates and Reds in his next two starts. Burn baby, burn.

 

Tyler Anderson, PIT – Cutter

Is Tyler Anderson kind of good now? After limiting the Cubs to two earned runs over eight innings on Sunday, Anderson now has three wins and 37 strikeouts in 41.1 IP, posting a 1.04 WHIP and 3.05 ERA (3.13 FIP, 3.92 xFIP, 4.08 SIERA), with some of this newfound success seemingly tied to the increase in usage (and effectiveness) of his cutter (-2.7 RV/100). His 28% usage is up from 18% in 2020, a good thing considering that it’s gone from a .434 xwOBAcon against it last season to a .303 xwOBAcon in 2021.

In terms of swing-and-miss ability, Anderson’s cutter has stayed steady at a 12.7% SwStr% but his four-seamer has risen from an 8.0% SwStr% in 2020 to 14.2% SwStr% in 2021. The movement profile on both pitches has changed somewhat, with his four-seamer adding even more rise to an already elite number (relative to velocity), while also adding 1.1 inches of break. The cutter broke less on the horizontal plane and stayed the same on the vertical but is down a tick in velocity from  2020, with its drop versus average increasing from 2.5 inches to  3.9 inches.

Besides the movement changes, Anderson’s cutter has a 45-minute deviation between its inferred and observed movement. Might some side force be coming into play and increasing the relative deception of how his pitches work together?

Here is how left-handed Anderson attacked RHB in 2020, with the cutter pictured but lightly used at only 11%, taking note of the separation between his four-seamer and changeup (combined 86% usage) near the commitment points:

 

Right-handed hitters now have to deal with a legitimate third pitch that is getting elite (and possibly deceptive) movement and splits the difference in the gap of separation between his four-seamer and changeup:

Anderson will now face the Giants at home and the Braves on the road before coming back home for the Cubs again. We just saw him handle the Cubs, the Giants have been an average offense versus LHP (.320 wOBA, 14th), and Atlanta has been downright dreadful, posting a .249 wOBA and 55 wRC+ vs LHP that is only better than Detroit. Don’t expect him to pick up many wins considering the offense behind him but Anderson (< 15% owned on ESPN/Yahoo) is at least worthy of streaming in the near future.

 

Carlos Martinez, STL – Four-Seam Fastball, Slider

Oh no, am I really going to have to retire a decade’s worth of jokes about Carlos Martinez (as a starter) being unable to get out left-handers? Martinez has allowed a .309 wOBA to RHB and only a .255 wOBA to LHB in 2021, with his cutter (having been mostly shelved since 2018) emerging as his main weapon when facing them.

The cutter seems to pair particularly well with his four-seamer, with left-handers now facing a much different look than what they’ve seen in the past. There is some proof in the contact, as Martinez has allowed a .270 wOBAcon to LHB with his four-seamer, down from a .451 wOBAcon in 2020.

Martinez had only allowed two earned runs in his previous last 21.1 IP before getting roughed up by the Rockies and a triple-five (5 IP, 5 ER, 5 BB) over the weekend but was reportedly pitching through pain after spraining his ankle the day before.

However, things could get keep getting bumpy, as his next four starts currently line up against the Padres, both Chicago teams, and the Dodgers, with only the Cubs coming at home. And while the cutter (and improved four-seam and slider) are helping him get deeper into games, there aren’t any signs pointing to a large uptick in strikeouts any time soon (12.6% K%, 7.7% SwStr%), putting a lower ceiling on his fantasy usefulness.

 

John Means, BAL – Changeup

He means business, that’s what. Now that we’ve gotten the obligatory pun out of the way, we can get down to the actual business that John Means. He has a 1.37  ERA and 0.67 WHIP through his first seven starts, picking up four wins and posting a career-best 30.1 % K%. Oh, and he just threw a no-hitter.

A lot of that success can be attributed to the returned effectiveness of the pitch that got him to the bigs in the first place, as his changeup went from a -1 RV/100 in 2019 to 1.6 RV/100 in 2020. Not only does Means have the largest improvement among changeups in 2021, but his -4.4 RV/100 is second only to the ridiculous -6.1 RV/100 of Gerrit Cole. Pairing it with a four-seamer getting elite rise (95th percentile according to drop vs. average), the changeup has posted a 25.5% SwStr% (up from 14.1% in 2020 and 14.6% in 2020), allowing just a .175 wOBAcon and .227 xwOBAcon.

Means has started 2021 as a top-3 pitcher according to the auction calculator, something unlikely to be sustainable. But can a rising, high spin fastball up in the zone, paired with a whiffle ball offspeed pitch at the bottom, keep working? Does it mean you should be looking to acquire the 28-year-old in redraft and dynasty, even as he plays his home games at a park with middle school dimensions?

It might if John keeps meaning more of this:





newest oldest most voted
nb
Member
nb

Cease improving his fastball seems notable too. Fastball location has been the thing holding him back the past couple seasons.