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Relief Pitcher Pitch Rankings

To follow the starting pitchers, we have the relief pitcher pitch rankings.

1. Top Ten Four-Seam Fastball (Min 300):

Player Sw+Whf% Sw+Whf% Z xwOBA xwOBA Z Z Total
Craig Kimbrel 94.74 2.34 0.23 1.80 4.15
Sean Doolittle 90.81 1.91 0.22 2.02 3.93
Chad Green 85.35 1.30 0.20 2.57 3.87
Anthony Swarzak 78.77 0.58 0.20 2.37 2.95
Josh Fields 89.12 1.72 0.27 0.89 2.61
Pedro Baez 90.00 1.82 0.28 0.78 2.60
Tommy Kahnle 84.53 1.21 0.25 1.34 2.56
Drew Steckenrider 84.55 1.21 0.26 1.13 2.34
Seung Hwan Oh 80.80 0.80 0.24 1.50 2.30
Josh Hader 87.30 1.52 0.28 0.67 2.19

The Stars: Craig Kimbrel, Sean Doolittle, Pedro Baez

Young and Coming: Chad Green, Drew Steckenrider, Josh Hader

Surprises: Anthony Swarzak, Josh Fields, Tommy Kahnle

No surprise that Kimbrel, probably the most dominant reliever of the past few years, is at the top. Jeff Sullivan discussed Green’s immense success overall and of his fastball recently in his second year for the Yankees. Steckenrider is an unknown rookie for the Marlins, but he has been exceptional for them. Hader is a top prospect for the Brewers and future starter, but his stint in the bullpen has gone perfectly. Swarzak is having a career year, so much so that the Brewers traded for him in an attempt to contend. Kahnle has broken out with the White Sox and Yankees.

2. Top Five Two-Seam Fastball (Min 250):

Player Sw+Whf% Sw+Whf% Z xwOBA xwOBA Z Z Total
Craig Stammen 67.73 0.49 0.25 1.95 2.44
Kelvin Herrera 81.71 2.71 0.36 -0.52 2.18
Edwin Diaz 75.76 1.76 0.32 0.42 2.18
Joe Kelly 72.95 1.32 0.30 0.79 2.11
Ryan Madson 68.80 0.66 0.28 1.23 1.89

The Stars: Kelvin Herrera, Ryan Madson

Young and Coming: Edwin Diaz

Surprises: Craig Stammen, Joe Kelly

Herrera has been mostly terrible this year, but his track record says he is still a star. And he clearly hasn’t lost anything from his two-seam fastball. Diaz dominated as a rookie, but has slowed down a lot this season. He’s still 23 — no reason to worry. Stammen didn’t even pitch in the MLB in 2016, but he is performing solidly for the Padres. Kelly is having a career year in Boston behind his high-heat fastball.

3. Top Five Cutter Fastball (Min 200):

Player Sw+Whf% Sw+Whf% Z xwOBA xwOBA Z Z Total
Jacob Barnes 104.09 1.99 0.22 1.21 3.20
Dominic Leone 99.80 1.62 0.24 0.81 2.43
Kenley Jansen 90.61 0.84 0.22 1.38 2.21
Alex Colome 85.15 0.37 0.20 1.80 2.17
Tommy Hunter 88.07 0.62 0.22 1.32 1.94

The Stars: Kenley Jansen, Alex Colome

Young and Coming: None

Surprises: Dominic Leone, Jacob Barnes, Tommy Hunter

The most infamous cutter in the game makes the top five, coming from Dodgers closer Jansen. Colome has continued a breakout from 2016 as the Rays closer. Leone had a great rookie season for the Mariners in 2014, but was knocked around in 2015/2016. He has come back nicely in 2017.

4. Top Five Sinker Fastball (Min 200):

Player Sw+Whf% Sw+Whf% Z xwOBA xwOBA Z Z Total
Pat Neshek 70.87 1.06 0.25 1.66 2.72
Matt Albers 66.94 0.58 0.24 1.96 2.54
Tony Watson 73.58 1.40 0.28 1.10 2.50
Scott Alexander 76.57 1.77 0.30 0.47 2.24
Richard Bleier 65.97 0.46 0.25 1.68 2.14

The Stars: Pat Neshek

Young and Coming: None

Surprises: Richard Bleier

Neshek, a two-time All-Star, has been spectacular for the Phillies. Bleier, a 30-year-old second-year player, has been unexpectedly good in the majors the past two years.

5. Top Two Splitter Fastball (Min 200):

Player Sw+Whf% Sw+Whf% Z xwOBA xwOBA Z Z Total
Blake Parker 101.30 1.30 0.18 1.48 2.78
Chasen Shreve 97.50 0.79 0.18 1.48 2.27

Only nine relievers heavily used the splitter, so this is a small leaderboard. Parker has broken out for the Angels in 2017. Shreve is the third Yankee to appear.

6. Top Five Curveball (Min 200):

Player Sw+Whf% Sw+Whf% Z xwOBA xwOBA Z Z Total
David Robertson 102.86 1.89 0.16 0.73 2.62
Jerry Blevins 95.85 1.28 0.16 0.71 1.99
Ryan Pressly 89.25 0.70 0.12 1.28 1.98
Cody Allen 90.94 0.85 0.15 0.85 1.70
Keone Kela 85.24 0.35 0.13 1.12 1.47

The Stars: David Robertson, Cody Allen

Young and Coming: Keone Kela

Surprises: None

Our fourth Yankee to appear on a leaderboard is Robertson. And none of those four have been Dellin Betances or Aroldis Chapman. Scary. Kela has been one of the only relievers holding the Rangers bullpen afloat.

7. Top Ten Slider (Min 250):

Player Sw+Whf% Sw+Whf% Z xwOBA xwOBA Z Z Total
Roberto Osuna 108.02 1.97 0.16 1.52 3.49
Arodys Vizcaino 105.81 1.78 0.16 1.54 3.32
Raisel Iglesias 98.47 1.13 0.14 1.93 3.06
Blake Treinen 105.37 1.74 0.17 1.23 2.97
Pedro Strop 107.08 1.89 0.19 0.97 2.86
Ken Giles 97.17 1.01 0.16 1.57 2.59
James Hoyt 110.74 2.22 0.23 0.19 2.41
Edwin Diaz 99.11 1.18 0.18 1.12 2.31
Adam Morgan 108.19 1.99 0.23 0.16 2.15
Kyle Barraclough 88.13 0.21 0.15 1.67 1.88

The Stars: Roberto Osuna, Pedro Strop, Ken Giles

Young and Coming: Raisel Iglesias, Edwin Diaz

Surprises: James Hoyt

Osuna has been nothing short of excellent for the Blue Jays, manning the closer job for all three of his professional seasons. Still just 22 years old, the best is yet to come. Strop is widely under-appreciated, but he has been a consistent force out of the Cubs bullpen for years. Mariners young stud Edwin Diaz makes his second leaderboard appearance. Hoyt has been terrible for the Astros, so his inclusion is unexpected.

8. Top Three Changeup (Min 200):

Player Sw+Whf% Sw+Whf% Z xwOBA xwOBA Z Z Total
Tommy Kahnle 99.96 1.16 0.18 1.59 2.75
Felipe Rivero 105.68 1.86 0.22 0.47 2.33
Chris Devenski 100.35 1.21 0.20 0.89 2.10

(the changeup is not much of a reliever pitch, so this leaderboard is small)

The Stars: Chris Devenski

Young and Coming: Felipe Rivero

Surprises: None

Kahnle appears again. With much-improved stuff, he has been striking out everybody en route to a big breakout season. Devenksi is only in his second year, but also in his second year of excellence. The unheralded minor-league starter turned long reliever turned dynamic/versatile setup man has been a star in Houston’s bullpen. His changeup is nicknamed the “Circle of Death,” so no surprise seeing him here. Rivero has been dominant for the Pirates in his third year in the bigs.

Top Fifteen Overall:

Pitch Player Sw+Whf% Sw+Whf% Z xwOBA xwOBA Z Z Total
4-Seam Craig Kimbrel 94.74 2.34 0.23 1.80 4.15
4-Seam Sean Doolittle 90.81 1.91 0.22 2.02 3.93
4-Seam Chad Green 85.35 1.30 0.20 2.57 3.87
Slider Roberto Osuna 108.02 1.97 0.16 1.52 3.49
Slider Arodys Vizcaino 105.81 1.78 0.16 1.54 3.32
Cutter Jacob Barnes 104.09 1.99 0.22 1.21 3.20
Slider Raisel Iglesias 98.47 1.13 0.14 1.93 3.06
Slider Blake Treinen 105.37 1.74 0.17 1.23 2.97
4-Seam Anthony Swarzak 78.77 0.58 0.20 2.37 2.95
Slider Pedro Strop 107.08 1.89 0.19 0.97 2.86
Splitter Blake Parker 101.30 1.30 0.18 1.48 2.78
Changeup Tommy Kahnle 99.96 1.16 0.18 1.59 2.75
Sinker Pat Neshek 70.87 1.06 0.25 1.66 2.72
Curveball David Robertson 102.86 1.89 0.16 0.73 2.62
4-Seam Josh Fields 89.12 1.72 0.27 0.89 2.61

Best Pitch: Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox, four-Seam

Biggest Surprise: Jacob Barnes, Milwaukee Brewers, Cutter

The leaderboard is run by four-seam fastballs and sliders at the top, which is unsurprising considering those are the favorite pitches of relievers. I’ve said this before, but three Yankees in the top 15. And neither of their alleged best two! That’s absurd. Seeing Kimbrel at the top is the exact opposite. Jacob Barnes, however, is crazy too. The unheralded second-year man hasn’t shown much yet, with a 4.00 FIP in 2017. But that cutter is doing something to hitters.

I will add one more, combining relievers and starters, and with some interesting tidbits.