Two-Pitch Starters Needing a Third Pitch

Every year Jason Collette puts together a list of pitchers who are adding a new pitch. Last year, over 50 different pitchers said they were adding/changing at least one of their pitches. Once the season was over, the pitchers who made the biggest gains from adding a new pitch weren’t on the list. As much as I personally enjoy helping with the list during the spring, it doesn’t help fantasy owners. Instead of focusing on the list, I’m going to work propose a different method for finding pitchers to target.

Once every season ends, I go examine where the fantasy industry missed on players. Two top-15 pitchers who made the list were Robbie Ray and Luis Severino. In both cases, they began to effectively utilize a third pitch. For Severino, it was a changeup which generated a 13% SwStr% and his K/9 jumped from 8.4 to 10.7 and his ERA dropped from 5.83 to 2.98.

For Ray, it was a curveball which did even better with an 18% SwStr%. He didn’t see as much of an improvement with his strikeouts inching up from 11.3 K/9 to 12.1 K/9 but his ERA dropped from 4.90 to 2.89. Both pitchers toyed around with the pitch previously but never fully bought into it.

Both pitchers were being taken at the end of drafts or not at all. Each was the breakout owners strive to roster. I’ve been thinking of a possible solution.

Instead of waiting for reports on a pitcher adding a pitch, I’ll find the pitchers who are most likely to benefit from a third breaking pitch. They are already getting by with just a fastball and one breaking pitch but a second breaker may put them over the top.

With these pitchers, I’m going to try to put on my best scouting hat and see if they add a decent one during spring training. Scouting pitchers in Arizona is an advantage with three pitch tracking systems installed to see if they are using a new pitch. Otherwise, I’m going to have to watch some games and see what they’re utilizing. If I find anything out, I will let our readers know but I may not be able to watch every pitcher so I’m making a target list available for owners if they want to do their own investigation.

To find the targets, I grouped the pitcher’s fastballs together and then added the percentage use of their most used breaking ball. The pitcher with the highest total from just two pitches is Dinelson Lamet at 56% fastball and 40% slider. He toyed around with a change but hasn’t bought into a third pitch he trusts.

I’m not sure if this process will yield any positive results. Just going through the new-pitch mentions didn’t work.

Here are the pitchers (min 80 IP) who utilized two pitches 85% or more of the time. For fastballs, I grouped all the pitches labeled two-seam, four-seam, and sinker together.

Two-Pitch Starters
Name IP Two Pitch% Fastball% CH% FC% FS% SL% CU%
Dinelson Lamet 114.1 96% 56% 5% 40%
Antonio Senzatela 111 95% 73% 4% 22% 1%
Luis Perdomo 163.2 94% 63% 6% 32%
Rich Hill 135.2 94% 55% 1% 3% 3% 39%
Lance Lynn 186.1 93% 81% 3% 12% 5%
Bartolo Colon 143 92% 82% 10% 1% 7%
Kyle Hendricks 139.2 92% 64% 28% 8%
Drew Pomeranz 173.2 92% 55% 2% 7% 37%
Chris Archer 201 92% 47% 8% 45%
Jose Berrios 144.1 91% 62% 9% 30%
Tyler Skaggs 85 91% 60% 9% 31%
Patrick Corbin 187 91% 54% 9% 0% 38%
Jose Quintana 188.2 91% 63% 9% 28%
German Marquez 162 91% 66% 6% 4% 25%
Sal Romano 87 90% 63% 10% 28%
Ivan Nova 187 90% 68% 10% 22%
Jameson Taillon 133.2 90% 64% 10% 26%
Ervin Santana 211.1 89% 53% 11% 37%
Kyle Freeland 149.2 89% 64% 7% 25% 4%
Brad Peacock 111.2 89% 50% 4% 39% 7%
Jhoulys Chacin 180.1 89% 54% 6% 1% 35% 5%
Jakob Junis 93 89% 56% 6% 33% 5%
Clayton Richard 197.1 88% 69% 11% 1% 19%
John Lackey 169.2 88% 52% 5% 36% 7%
Lance McCullers 118.2 88% 40% 12% 48%
Trevor Williams 138.2 87% 72% 10% 16% 2%
James Paxton 136 87% 66% 3% 10% 21%
Jason Hammel 180.1 87% 50% 4% 37% 10%
Marcus Stroman 201 87% 62% 6% 3% 24% 5%
Luis Severino 193.1 86% 51% 14% 35%
Danny Salazar 97.1 86% 60% 27% 8% 6%
Alex Cobb 179.1 86% 52% 14% 34%
Marco Estrada 186 86% 54% 32% 7% 8%
Sean Newcomb 100 85% 63% 11% 4% 22%
Tyler Chatwood 136.1 85% 65% 4% 21% 10%
Jon Gray 110.1 85% 57% 1% 28% 14%
Luis Castillo 89.1 85% 62% 23% 15%
Kevin Gausman 186.2 85% 64% 0% 21% 15%

Of these pitchers, I going to concentrate my efforts on the younger pitchers. I’m not going to hope the old dogs (Colon, Hill, Lynn) will learn new tricks.

Of the pitchers with the most to gain, here some information on the what the third pitch could be.

Dinelson Lamet

The pitch to look for will be his changeup. Its peripherals were fine but the results were horrible (vs .419 wOBA). He started the season using it more (14% in May) but drop its usage each month until he didn’t throw it at all in September.

Changeup
2017
13% SwStr%, 46% GB%
Baseball America (BA): “… projects average…”
2016
MLB.com (MLB): 45 grade, “…in its nascent stages…”
BA: no third pitch

Antonio Senzatela

Reading through his previous scouting reports, he seems to have just developed his slider to go with his fastball. His change just seems to be behind but its peripheral stats mimic his slider.

Changeup
2017
12% SwStr%, 33% GB%
BA: ” …showed flashes of being an average weapon…”
2016
MLB: 50 grade, “…second-best offering is a changeup that ranges from 45-55…”
BA: “… His straight, downward tumbling changeup has a chance to be plus.”

Luis Perdomo

Perdomo thrives by keeping the ball down in the zone with his sinker and curve. His groundball rate is elite (62%) but his lackluster strikeout rate (6.5 K/9) is keeping him from being among the league’s best. Developing an average change/splitfinger could put him over the edge. Right now it grades out to below average.

Change (label a splitter at times)
2017
8% SwStr%, 61% GB%
2016
12.4% SwStr%, 52% GB%
BA: “… firm changeup…”

Chris Archer

Archer always seems to be developing his change and keep usage around 10%. Besides its low Zone% (35%), he should just keep throwing the pitch. It performs better than his fastball. For him it’s not developing the pitch, it’s using it.

Change
2017
14% SwStr%, 48% GB%
2016
13% SwStr%, 65% GB%
2015
15% SwStr%, 60% GB%

We hoped you liked reading Two-Pitch Starters Needing a Third Pitch by Jeff Zimmerman!

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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 three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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This is a fun exercise and a great starting point list. I especially appreciate the sourced notes & stats on the potential third offspeed pitch – thanks!