Whether it’s Britton’s cutter, Kershaw’s curve, or Sale’s slider, every pitcher has their bread and butter pitch. It’s their version of the one play you run in Madden that nobody can stop. No matter how often you run “PA F Slide,” those chains keep moving until you’re in the end zone. We all hate that “one-play” guy. But if it helps me win then, hey, I too would run it every damn time. Using the same methodology for baseball, one would assume a pitcher should throw his best pitch a lot. Right? Who wouldn’t want to score a touchdown (or in this case, a whiff) on every play? Fangraphs developed a stat called “Pitch Values” which tries to quantify how good a pitcher has performed when using a particular pitch. If a pitcher whiffs on Aroldis Chapman’s fastball often (well, not this year), those numbers will be reflected in their wFB number. This stat is “the total runs saved by a pitcher using that pitch.” A problem arises, however, due to some pitchers throwing different amounts of each pitch. Therefore, Fangraphs created another category that standardizes the values on a per 100 pitch basis. Who are the pitchers that aren’t throwing that nasty cheese often enough? Using pitch values, let’s dive in.
wFB/C–.54 (16th among 63 qualified pitchers)
FB%-47.4% (58th among qualified)
Jeremy Hellickson was once a phenom. The former Rookie of the Year was supposed to be the next young pitcher the Rays somehow always seem to discover. David Price, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer and Matt Moore all have had successful careers with the Rays. None of them won ROY. Hellickson’s career has significantly fallen off, however. He has bounced around the NL since returning to the AL East in a July acquisition by the Orioles. With a 5.26 ERA, nobody was expecting the rookie version of Hellickson to step on the mound. With the Orioles, he has a 6.87 ERA. Hellickson’s fastball has been underutilized. Rather, he has been changeup heavy, tossing it 28.7% of the time (3rd most) but with a -1.78 wCH/C. He can throw the fastball more. Not asking for much, here. My mom can throw a fastball.
wSl/C—1.44 (10th among 46 qualified pitchers)
Sl%–12.4%(39th among qualified)
It’s fitting that Lynn plays for one of the most consistent franchises in sports. With an ERA under 4.00 every year of his career, Lance has been a rock for the Cardinals. Lynn started off with a repertoire guided by his curveball in 2012, where he threw it 17.8% of the time. Since then, those breaking balls have been substituted for fastballs with his slider staying around 10%. Previous to his Tommy John surgery, the slider was ineffective. He posted negative wSl/C every year of his career. However, this year his slider has been stronger than the ones of Severino, Darvish, and even Chris Sale. If he can keep this trend up, Lynn could become a more than reliable option behind Carlos Martinez.
wCB/C–1.63 (7th among 52 qualified pitchers)
CB%–6.2% (46th among qualified)
To succeed at Yankee Stadium, you better not hang your curveballs. That short porch in right field will rough you up. Masahiro Tanaka knows this all too well, as he has been somewhat home run happy this year with a 20.3 HR/FB %. Tanaka is an interesting case. His velocity is up on all of his pitches by a significant factor. This demonstrates the idea that velocity and results don’t always have a direct relationship. Despite its velocity jump, his fastball has been awful. His -2.24 wFB/C is the worst in the league by a healthy margin. Tanaka lives on his off-speed stuff. His sinker is what brought him to America, and now it’s time he implements the curveball more often.
wCH/C–1.30 (12th among 59 qualified pitchers)
CH%–10.8%(31st among qualified)
Gerrit Cole has been the subject of many trade rumors. A young, controllable starter like Cole should warrant the same kind of package the A’s got for Sonny Gray. He is the perfect candidate to throw his off-speed pitches more. Cole’s fastball ranks 2nd in velocity behind Luis Severino. Throwing the changeup more often would set hitters up for failure when they expect a pitch 8 MPH slower. Cole has been good this year, but not special. His HR/9 has more than doubled since last year, despite his peripheral stats staying essentially the same. Cole has also doubled his changeup usage, so he is on the right track. He recognizes the problem and has started to go after it. If he keeps using his secondary pitches to set up the fastball, Cole will rebuild his trade value and could find himself in a new uniform (Pinstripes? Please?!) soon.