Which Starters Have the Most Above-Average Pitches

Yeah but does he have a change-up? That’s a great question for Odrisamer Despaigne, for example. Dude threw an 87 mph slider and a slow 67 mph curve after his excellent 92 mph sinker, which sounds good until you realize his command should be exposed in the future (too many arm slots, too many minor league walks) and when you see that the curve and slider got two whiffs combined (42 thrown!) and the change was inconsistent and ranged from 75-88 mph (!) even if it got two whiffs (12 thrown). Strange to see a rookie throw more breakers than fastballs (24), too.

So which pitchers have the full monty? Which pitchers have the most above-average pitches? Now, thanks to Jeff Zimmerman, we can quantify that. Using the pitch type benchmarks I have for swinging strikes here, and ground balls here, we can decide if a pitch is above-average in those two ways. Using Excel, we can then sort for the most number of pitches that meet our benchmarks.

Boom. Felix Hernandez has the most number of great pitches. Feels sorta good to write that.

Pitcher Count All Plusses Pitches Plus CU SI FT FF CH SL FC
Felix Hernandez 4706 10 4 2 2   2 2 1 1
Jaime Garcia 1361 9 3 2   2 1 1 2 1
Matt Harvey 2692 9 4 2   1 2 2 2  
Johnny Cueto 2533 9 3 1   2 2 2 1 1
David Hale 907 8 3 2   2 1 2 1  
Cliff Lee 4320 8 3 2     1 2 1 2
Wade Miley 4623 8 3 2   2 1 1 2  
John Lackey 4306 8 2 1   1 1 1 2 2
Homer Bailey 4703 8 3 1   2 1 2 2  
Sonny Gray 2421 8 3 2   2 1 1   2
Yordano Ventura 1427 7 2 2   1 1 2   1
Marcus Stroman 510 7 2 1     1 1 2 2
Dallas Keuchel 3923 7 2 1   1 1 2 2  
Matt Shoemaker 741 7 3 1       2 2 2
Gus Schlosser 142 7 2 2   1 2 1 1  
Taylor Jordan 1173 7 2 1   1 1 2 2  
Gerrit Cole 2928 7 2 1   1 1   2 2
Garrett Richards 3711 7 2     2 1 1 2 1
CC Sabathia 4119 7 2   2   1 2 1 1
Ivan Nova 2405 7 2 2   2 1 1 1  
Yovani Gallardo 4450 7 1 2   1 1 1 1 1
Charlie Morton 3098 7 2 2 1 2 1 1    
Gavin Floyd 1181 6 2 2   1   1   2
Matt Harrison 530 6 2 2   1 1 2    
Kris Johnson 273 6 3   2     2 2  
Carlos Carrasco 1486 6 2 1     1 2 2  
Clayton Kershaw 4136 6 2 2     1 1 2  
Edwin Jackson 4257 6 1 1 1 1 1   2  
Dan Straily 3068 6 2 1   1   2 2  
Francisco Liriano 3712 6 2     1 1 2 2  

That first column counts how many benchmarks were met. Felix Hernandez has a nice slider and/or cutter by whiffs, but they don’t meet the ground-ball benchmarks (if they are even two pitches), so that leaves him with four good pitches (a pitch gets a ‘two’ if it’s above average in whiffs and grounders). Only Matt Harvey matches that feat in all of baseball over the last two years, so, yeah, those guys are good.

Let’s look at some of the surprises on this list. Jaime Garcia has always been a favorite of mine from a stuff angle. His change-up, slider and curve are all good pitches by swinging strike rate, which is maybe surprising to those that think of him as a ground-ball pitcher. When he was going a little better in his healthier years, his two-seamer got enough whiffs to make him the vaunted four-pitch pitcher. But of course his health is too wonky to ever pin too much hope on him.

David Hale keeps showing up in here as having a good change, sinker, and breaker. That, and his dual pitcher eligibility, is enough for him to hang on to a couple of my deeper rosters despite his inconsistent command and current rough patch. File the name away for spot starting and deep league use at best, though. Wait for yet another Bravo pitcher to go down before doing anything.

Wade Miley will get some love from Jeff Zimmerman in another piece, so let’s skip ahead to the last surprising three-pitch pitcher: Matt Shoemaker. Right now, his strikeout-minus-walk rate far outstrips anything he’s done in the minor leagues, but he’s got two things going for him: a major league job, and three major league quality pitches. His sinker is not great, but his four-seam, slider, and change are all good pitches (and the whiff rates are plus-plus on the slider and change in his short sample). At 92 mph with a change and slider that go around 83-84, the stuff doesn’t look very special, but his off-speed pitches both break in different directions and his command (which has been improving) looks good. I won’t pick him up in a shallow league just yet, but I will go pick him up wherever he’s available in my deep leagues after writing this sentence.

Lower, off the leaderboard shown here, there are is one more three-pitch guys, Masahiro Tanaka, but you know he’s good.

Instead, let’s take note of the strange line of Yovani Gallardo. Only his curve ball rates above-average by both grounders and whiffs. The sinker gets 55% grounders, so that’s good, but no whiffs (3.7%). Same for the four-seamer (45% and 3.4% respectively). The change gets ground balls (58%) but no whiffs (7.4%, 15% is average). Same on the slider (48% but only 11% whiffs). The cutter is probably his slider, but has the same numbers as his slider too. That’s how a pitcher reworks his arsenal to work after losing stuff — Gallardo has the best ground-ball rate of his career. With one pitch that’s all-around good. The arsenal seems to suggest that he can keep up the ground-ball work, for what it’s worth.



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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, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.


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Norm
Guest
Norm

Wonder where Darvish ranks with all the pitches he’s capable of throwing.

Eno Sarris
Guest
Eno Sarris

He didn’t show here because none of his pitches get ground balls. I’ll do one just on whiffs.

cmg8462
Member
cmg8462

What about additional weighting to swSTR. 1SD above swSTR is a bonus point, GB% leave as is. Guessing under that criteria you would have a substantial amount of the top tier pitchers added to the list who don’t have 3 or less pitches as well as some of the guys who have elite stuff but don’t get a ton of groundballs (Darvish).

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