Colby Lewis’s Sliders

April could not have gone much better for Colby Lewis, or his main promoter, Carson Cistulli. While other FanGrahps authors think his Cy Young chances range from 2% to skim, Carson continues to “pimp his dawg” (or whatever youthful slang Carson would use to describe his support). And for good reason: he sits just behind Brandon Morrow on the AL K/9 leaderboard with 10.47, and, although he has had some HR/FB luck, he still has a solid 3.60 xFIP.

Compared to his previous time in the MLB, he is getting tons more swings outside the zone and swinging strikes — not surprising given his huge strikeout rate. This increase seems due, at least partially, to increased slider use. In his pre-NPB days he threw it 7% of the time, but through five starts this year he is throwing it a hair below 30% (according to the BIS classifications as well as my classifications of the pitchf/x data). By linear weights of the BIS classifications it is his nastiest pitch, already worth 5 runs above average, and I see it getting swinging strikes 20% of the time. The average slider last year got a swinging strike 13% of the time. Overall, Lewis is getting just under 12% swinging strikes compared to a league average of 8%.

Lewis, like most RHPs, throws his slider more often to RHBs, 35% of the time compared to 25% fo the time to LHBs. Here are the locations of his sliders to RHBs, with contacted pitches and whiff pitches marked. Unlabeled pitches were taken.

When Lewis leaves his slider up-and-in it has not been missed, but when they are down-and-away he gets tons of swinging strikes. This is a common pattern with sliders, and Lewis has done a pretty good job of keeping his down-and-away.

Patrick Newman, also a FanGraphs author, has a great pitchf/x-like tool for the NPB and with it we can go back and look at Lewis’s starts there. You can find it here, choose any date and see his pitch type and velocity over the course of a game. A cursory look through this shows a healthy dose of sliders, so it seems to me that this increased use of sliders was something that he started in Japan. So far it has worked wonders for him back in MLB.



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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.


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Sam
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Sam
6 years 2 months ago

This has nothing to do with this article, so I apologize in advance. However, I have to know, does the runs created stat on this site include stolen bases? If so, then could someone give an overview of what goes into that stat?

Thanks

t ball
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t ball
6 years 2 months ago

When Lewis was signed it was said he had added a Cutter in Japan that had been a part of his success over there, and I know this is a pitch favored by Maddux and the Rangers right now. Lewis’ page shows zero cutters right now, is there some classification issue here?

Mike Fast
Guest
Mike Fast
6 years 2 months ago

I see no sign of a Lewis throwing cutters this year in MLB. That group of pitches is a classic slider: 8 mph off the fastball speed, very little vertical spin deflection, just a few inches of horizontal spin deflection.

t ball
Guest
t ball
6 years 2 months ago

I believe that is true, but that’s why I’m so confused. Did he use it in Japan and then ditch it over here? I’ll have to try and ask this during a chat session with someone from the team if I get the chance, or maybe one of the beat reporters. The guys that cover the Rangers are pretty open to digging for that type of stuff.

Lucas A.
Guest
6 years 2 months ago

I’m wondering if Lewis just refers to his slider as a cutter. I know CC Sabathia calls his slider a cutter, and Sabathia’s slider is pretty slurvy.

t ball
Guest
t ball
6 years 2 months ago

Ok, I have an answer. Apparently, in a Dallas radio interview last week Lewis said it’s not a real cutter, it’s a slider. He alters the release a bit but doesn’t use a different grip.

Jason
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Jason
6 years 2 months ago

A Shuuto is not a Cutter/Slider combination. It runs like a 2-seam fastball

phil
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phil
6 years 2 months ago

The graph: what’s the viewers’ perspective…form the pitcher’s eye or the batter’s? From the analysis, Dave claims up-and-in sliders to RHB got hit which would imply that the graph is from the batter’s perspective…true?

obsessivegiantscompulsive
Member
6 years 2 months ago

FYI, off-topic but sort of on, according to recent reports, a reporter has credited Zito’s addition of a slider to his repertoire as a big part of his success: http://blogs.mercurynews.com/extrabaggs/2010/04/30/the-pitch-that-made-barry-zito-a-winner-again/#more-2950

I think someone else on the Giants staff has also added the use of the slider, I recall Lincecum, but not absolutely sure of that.

Hank
Guest
Hank
6 years 2 months ago

How much is the whiff rate impacted by facing Seattle twice, Bos, Cle and Det?

dan woytek
Guest
6 years 2 months ago

Dave,
I believe while talking about any of Colby Lewis’s pitches one must end the name of the pitch “piece”, therefore the title of this entry should be “Colby Lewis’s Slidepieces”

Hearts,
Carson C.

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