Using Whiff Rates to Find Balanced Arsenals

Yesterday, we looked at the elite pitches when it came to whiff rates. Today, we’ll look at things a bit differently. The following pitchers rated highly by swinging strike rate across multiple offspeed pitches. You might notice a certain deficiency in the group. Not a lot of great fastballs! As always, here are the benchmarks for each pitch type.

The Balanced Arsenals, Three Pitches
Corey Kluber (Curve 19.1%, Change 21%, Slider 15.5%)
Tim Lincecum (Curve 11.1%, Change 22.7%, Slider 17.6%)
Wade Miley (Curve 15.2%, Change 10.9%, Slider 18.7%)
Jerome Williams (Curve 10.8%, Change 18.1%, Slider 17.2%)
Ricky Nolasco (Curve 8.6%, Change 18.9%, Slider 18.6%)
Tom Koehler (Curve 7.3%, Change 15%, Slider 20.3%)
Philip Humber (Curve 12.4%, Change 10.2%, Slider 17.4%)
Dillon Gee (Curve 9.7%, Change 17.9%, Slider 13.3%)
Brandon Maurer (Curve 11.1%, Change 4.7%, Slider 17.4%)
Rick Porcello (Curve 9.7%, Change 14%, Slider 14.1%)
Mike Leake (Curve 9.5%, Change 4.3%, Slider 17.8%)

The Corey Kluber society lives on! And, like Tim Lincecum, his fastball isn’t totally hopeless either. Maybe Kluber’s only asterisk is similar to Lincecum’s: if your command within the zone is erratic from time to time, you are more prone to higher batting averages on balls in play, and give up more homers. That’s a slight risk for Miley and his bad fastball in the desert, and it’s a huge risk for Jerome Williams and his bad fastball in Houston. At least Ricky Nolasco is pitching in a homer-suppressing park. We can’t forget he had bad years in Miami though, too. Philip Humber is the human warning sign for this approach. Yeah he has three representative offspeed pitches. No, he’s not very good. Dillon Gee shows what you can do when you take this sort of arsenal into a neutral park. Brandon Maurer is missing a change, but it’s not like he doesn’t have *something* going for him. Mike Leake is just meh across the board, another warning sign.

The Balanced Arsenals, Two Pitches
Taylor Jordan (Slider 21%, Change-up 21%)
Francisco Liriano (Slider 19%, Change-up 20%)
Edwin Jackson (Slider 19.2%, Change-up 9.3%)
Dan Straily (Slider 18.5%, Change-up 16.9%)
Jesse Chavez (Slider 16.7%, Change-up 9.9%)

Here we relaxed the requirements to look at pitchers with two good pitches. Taylor Jordan immediately looks like a great sleeper. He doesn’t get many whiffs with his fastball, but it’s not a bad pitch — he gets tons of grounders with his two-seamer. Now he’s ahead in the competition with Ross Detwiler and looks like he’s a great deep league pickup and bordering on a final mixed-league pitcher pickup. Francisco Liriano is way better than Edwin Jackson, but it’s kind of fun to put them both here. Jackson should stay healthy all year, while Liriano is pretty much guaranteed to max out around 160 innings. Go get Dan Straily. He pitches in a great home park and has two above-average breaking pitches that break in different directions. No, his two-seamer isn’t great (and he admitted as much to me this week in Arizona), but his four-seamer is fine. All the work on the change-up did him good. Jesse Chavez doesn’t have a great change, but his fastball still zips at 92, his breakers are good. If you’re looking for deep league innings, he looks like he might be the fifth starter in Oakland to begin the year.

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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

10 Responses to “Using Whiff Rates to Find Balanced Arsenals”

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  1. benagain123 says:

    i assume innings qualification reasons, but Salazar should be on this list no? 15% on the slider, 22% on the CH. (fastball is 13 but i know youre just looking at off-speeders)

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  2. novaether says:

    For what it’s worth, Kluber is the only pitcher with above average swinging strike rates on all three of those off-speed offerings. His fastball isn’t *great*, but perhaps it’s useful at setting up his breaking balls. Maybe the full combination gives him a chance at outperforming the rest of the list?

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  3. GilaMonster says:

    It is also worth noting Kluber also has an elite cutter(29.48% Whiff/Swing and 48% GB).

    Any reason for these pitchers? Gio has an elite(CH,CB),Strasburg has super elite(CH,CB) Teheran has a FA,SL,CH,CB that all look great,Gray has a good FA,CH,CB. Kazmir has an above average FA,SI,CH,SL.

    Jeff Samardjiza was my favorite. He has an elite FA,SL,Cutter, AND Splitter.

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  4. deezy333 says:


    Hey buddy, just drafted and already have to adjust for likely losing Corbin and potentially Griffin. Which two do you like the best of this bunch: Skaggs, Hutchinson, Carrasco, M. Perez, Miley, Peralta, Kennedy, Santiago, Gee. Thanks man!

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    • centerfield_ballhawk says:

      I’m guessing Eno is going to say Carrasco and Skaggs, (maybe Kennedy) based on the teams that he’s drafted this year.

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      • GilaMonster says:

        I’d probably say Kennedy and your choice of Miley or Skaggs. Miley is a safe back-end guy. Skaggs is more risky, but has better upside.

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    • Dave says:

      Kennedy for sure, then Miley… the rest are crapshoots, though I like Skaggs for a breakout year… still, gotta take the 2 better talents right now in Kennedy and Miley

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  5. Matt says:

    Eno, really enjoy this per pitch analysis, but could you post (or repost, i may have missed it) the sample size at which these rates become reliable? for example taylor jordan only threw 148 changeups in mlb last year per brooksbaseball – is that a statistically significant sample to suggest the true quality of that pitch? thanks, really enjoy any will keep reading.

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  6. Robert says:

    Eno, loved the discussion of this stuff on the podcast. Has there been any analysis of sequencing when it comes to whiff rates (i.e., there’s a lot of anecdotal stuff about how important this is to throwing off hitter’s timing and how sequencing can make different pitches more and less effective)?

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  7. Tanner Bell says:

    Eno, are you aware of a resource we can use to search swinging strike rates by pitcher? I know we can look up a pitcher one-by-one at BrooksBaseball, but is there anything similar to sortable the Fangraphs Leaderboard that would allow one to see rankings by pitch type?

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