A Closer Look at Gregerson’s Slider

Since his arrival in the big leagues, the best way to describe Luke Gregerson is simply “unhittable.” Last season, Gregerson posted a 3.24 ERA/2.50 FIP/3.11 xFIP in seventy-five innings with a K/9 of a whopping 11.16. This year, he’s walking two batters less per nine innings, and with some BABIP help is down to a line of 2.66 ERA/2.43 FIP/2.60 xFIP. However, he’s also decreased his tERA from 2.56 to 2.13. The groundballs are down while the flyballs have increased, which isn’t usually a good sign, but it is partially due to the decrease in line drives (which is most likely going to regress a bit). Gregerson has also begun to throw his slider a bunch more this year, up to 61.4% from 49.6% last season. Joe Pawlikowski wrote about about Gregerson’s nasty slider in early June:

The Padres’ bullpen has benefitted greatly from Gregerson and his slider. The unit claims the NL trifecta of fewest walks, most strikeouts, and lowest batting average against. They’re getting help from everywhere, but Gregerson has been a particular bright spot this season. The high slider frequency does cause a little concern, but for right now it’s his nearly unhittable weapon. I can’t imagine being an opposing hitter and standing in to face him.

Using the Bloomberg Sports Pro Tool, I wanted to take a closer look at Gregerson’s slider:

The top image shows all sliders thrown by Gregerson in 2010 to right-handed batters, while the bottom image shows the batted ball location of all those pitches. The highlighted balls in the top image correspond to the highlighted balls in play in the bottom image. As you can see, when Gregerson leaves his slider up and in/over the plate to right-handed hitters, it tends to get hit relatively far compared to all of his balls in play. Still, there’s only one homer there and a bunch of flyouts and a few groundouts, so even Gregerson’s hung slider isn’t all that bad. Here are the pitches from the lower-right quadrant of the batter’s box:

When Gregerson is able to locate his slider, batters don’t stand a chance. This also only includes batted balls. Look at Gregerson’s swings-and-misses generated by his sliders versus righties in 2010:

Gregerson’s slider has been worth 12 runs above average this season (from our own numbers here at Fangraphs) after an outstanding 18.7 mark last year. You can see why.

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Pat Andriola is an Analyst at Bloomberg Sports who formerly worked in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department. You can contact him at Patrick.Andriola@tufts.edu or follow him on Twitter @tuftspat

8 Responses to “A Closer Look at Gregerson’s Slider”

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  1. CircleChange11 says:

    I like these type of posts.

    At first blush it seems to indicate that “low and away sliders by RHP to RHBs are really effective”, which should be common knowledge … heck any pitch consistently low and away is going to be hard to hit.

    But the analysis goes further to assign a quantity to the effectiveness that can compared to other pitchers to reveal that certain pitches of certain pitchers are more effective than the same pitch from other pitchers.

    I like that.

    When Gregerson is able to locate his slider, batters don’t stand a chance.

    For example, you could replace Gregorson with “pitcher’s name” and “slider” with “any pitch” and it would be reasonably accurate.

    But, being able to quantify the success of the pitch is where the money’s at, IMO.

    I’m trying to recall the quote from a well known pitching coach (perhaps Apodaca), “The wrong pitch thrown at the wrong time in the right location, is still a good pitch”.

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    • Pat Andriola says:

      Thanks. Also, I just got the numbers for the two separate images I showed.

      Stats for pitches low and away (highlighted pitches in Image #2):

      .083/.083/.083 (36 total AB, 100 pitches)

      Stats for pitches middle of the plate/high and in (highlighted pitches in Image #1):

      .389/.421/.722 (18 AB, 61 total pitches)

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I just finished reading Ball Four (Bouton), and I find his reaction to pitching coach advice to be pretty standard. The reason for this is pitching advice is generally obvious.

        “Throw him (good hitter) 3 pitches low and away”, as if any batter could tee off on these pitches.

        “Throw strikes, but nothing too good”. In other words “don’t throw cockshots”. Again, duh.

        Gregerson does a good job of “grouping his shots” with his slider. If/When he misses, it’s not in the middle of the plate, but low and away off the plate (assuming these are misses and not the intended target, which is likely not the case … he probably intends to miss off the plate, depending on count).

        I would love to see Wainwright’s breakdown on his deuce. He seemingly has mastered “painting” it at the knees (or just below). There just isn’t much a hitter can do with that pitch in that location.

        I would say analysis on Strasberg’s changeup would reveal siilar “grouping”. Versus RHB’s he puts it low and away (by the book), but his changeup is also great against RHBs, but instead of going low and away (ball tails back toward the barrel), but goes down and even out of the zone (down and middle). This is very interesting and important for a young pitcher, who has found a strong secondary pitch, effective in different ways, to both types of hitters.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Sorry, vLHB, Strasberg puts the CC low and away, vRHB down and out of the zone.

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  2. Chris says:

    Imagine how the Cardinals feel. They would love to have this guy in the bullpen.

    How do you let a guy with this good of a slider get traded for Khalil Greene? I will never know.

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    • Theo says:

      The Padres returned the favor by trading David Freese for 26 games of a completely useless Jim Edmonds.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      That was a tough trading Haren. Haren had good MiLB numbers .. but his MLB stats over 100 IP (over 2 partial seasons) weren’t that impressive. But, he was a very talented 2nd round pick, and you don;t get something for nothing when you trade with OAK.

      Traded for Mark Mulder. Mulder had a 4 WAR season, and two 5 WAR seasons … but was coming off a 2.7 WAR season. IMO, Mulder was damaged goods (fairly obvious at this point). The A’s also got rid of Zito just before he went in the crapper. Some of that looks suspicious.

      In 2005 the Cardinals had: [1] Carpenter, [2] Morris, and [3] Mulder, which was supposed to be a solid top of the rotation with [4] Suppan, and [5] Marquis being the valued “innings eaters”. Carp went 6.8 WAR, Morris and Mulder were above average, Suppan slightly below and Marquis was, well, an innings eater.

      Haren (OAK) = 4.0 WAR in ’05. Ouch. He’s definately the one that got away.

      StL has long had a love affair with lefties … and terrible luck with them (DJackson, DOsborne, RAnkiel, etc). Usually one really good season, then injuries/etc. I wonder how much of “not having a righty starter” played into dealing Haren?

      Given the situation this year, one has to wonder whether they were interested in haren or were just looking at Oswalt?

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