Which Pitchers Are Throwing More Sliders Recently?

It’s been about a month since the All-Star break, so our leaderboard splits can allow me to look at a pitcher over the last month and compare them to their first half numbers. Yes, arbitrary endpoints. But! Strikeout rate stabilizes in about a month, so at least it’s not the worst arbitrary endpoints ever chosen.

I took a look at the pitching mixes for qualified pitchers over the last month, and then compared those mixes to the first half. Let’s highlight the biggest movers in the major pitch types, starting with sliders today.

Sliders

Chris Young (+10.3%)
Early on in the season, 93% of Chris Young‘s pitches were fastballs or sliders. Over the last month, 94% of his pitches have been fastballs or sliders. He’s just turned a few fastballs into sliders, and though he’s now over that 30% threshold for sliders that seems to be the danger zone for starters, we’re not really worried about Chris Young‘s long-term health. Now his strikeout rate is around average in the second half (20.1%) and since he’s got that good walk rate, he’s above average by strikeouts minus walks, too (13.8%, 12% is average).

Collin McHugh (+9.9%)
McHugh threw a ton of breakers before, and now he’s throwing 10% more sliders and 4% more curveballs and is top five in breaking ball usage for the season. Over the last month, McHugh has thrown 60% breaking balls! That would be tops in that category over the last month. He’s 27 and seems like a nice find by strikeouts and walks, but remember that these breakers are probably not going to be great for his longterm health. That’s a concern for dynasty owners. Redraft leagues shouldn’t see McHugh on their waivers, though.

Garrett Richards (+9.3%)
Richards is also throwing a ton of sliders now, and with his curveball usage factored in, he’s at 41% breakers. That’s also a little worrisome, especially with a not-insignificant jump in innings. Kind of amazing that someone with a 96 mph fastball needs to throw so many sliders, but it has fueled his breakout season. And he’s a legit three-pitch guy. This one’s more of a shrug. With an asterisk for keeper owners.

Jered Weaver (+8.3%)
For the season, Weaver is throwing his slider less than he ever has, so this just seems like regression to his career norms. What’s more telling, maybe, is that his fastball usage is below 50% over the last month with his increased breaking ball usage. That follows right in the footsteps of his long decline in fastball usage and velocity. He’s beginning to pitch backwards and act like a pitcher with an 86 mph fastball, and now may be the last time you can deal him for good value in a dynasty league.

Danny Salazar (+7.3%)
Salazar’s slider gets good whiffs (18%) but it also has the worst home run rate of his mix (2%), so it’s strange that the slider has the best ball rate of all his pitches. Maybe he can command it better, or maybe his arsenal just works better with three pitches going, but he’s been better recently. With such a whiffy split-change (20%), you’d think it would make sense to throw that pitch a ton, but his walk rate has gone down since he cut 6.6% out of his splitter usage. And it isn’t a pitch that most people can command. If homers are going to be an issue, then keeping the walks down will be his best response. We’re left with substantive pitching mix change backing better results from one of the best strikeout rate upside starting pitchers in baseball… he shouldn’t be on any waiver wires.



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With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here or at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.


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Mike Wimmer
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Mike Wimmer

Would you drop Phil Hughes for Salazar?

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