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Best Pitches from 2020

Who needs an introduction? This piece is simply about the best pitches from 2020. I looked at a number of factors when making these determinations including run value, whiff%, K%, xwOBA, and hard hit%. I’ll cover the four main pitch types: fourseam fastballs, changeups, sliders, and curveballs. Let’s start with the heater!

Best Fourseam Fastball from 2020 (Minimum 300 thrown) – Walker Buehler 

This one was extremely close between Walker Buehler and Freddy Peralta. So close in fact, that I deferred to run value per 100 pitches thrown. Here is the pertinent data.

Fourseam Fastball - Buehler vs Peralta

Pitcherrun_valuePitchesPitch%Whiff%K%xBAxSLGxwOBA
Buehler-1132353.826.134.30.1370.2160.218
Peralta-1032965.938.639.10.1690.2730.238



While Freddy generated more strikeouts via a better whiff%, Buehler induced more weak contact with a crazy-low xBA and xSLG. The tie-breaker for me was the run value. While extremely close, Buehler just edged out Peralta in this one. Buehler averaged 96.8 mph on his heater and didn’t give up a single home run and allowed just one barrel all season. Peralta on the other hand averaged just 93.0 mph which is insane considering how successful it’s been. He did allow one homer and three barrels, so that information justifies the choice of Buehler over Peralta.

Best Fourseam Fastball from 2020 (Minimum 500 thrown) – Jacob deGrom

Jacob deGOAT of course finished 2020 with the best fastball among starters with at least 500 thrown. He somehow added velocity (1.7 mph to be exact) from a year ago and this marks the fourth straight year he’s been able to improve his average fastball velocity. deGrom manages an insane 42.9% K-rate with his heater which would be a solid rate for a slider. His .186 batting average allowed was easily the best among starters with over 500 FB thrown, second best was Lucas Giolito with a .201 BA against. deGrom features three plus-plus pitches. His slider might be his third-best pitch and it manages a 45% whiff rate. His change earned a 40% K-rate and a .253 xwOBA. Even if deGrom loses a mph off his heater next year, he’s still my top SP for 2021.

 

Best Changeup from 2020 (Minimum 200 thrown) – Devin Williams

Rookie sensation, Devin Williams provided unquestionably the best changeup in 2020. He threw it 227 times, generating a 61.2% K% with a mind-boggling 61.1% whiff rate. It allowed just an 0.032 batting average and ZERO extra-base hits. The expected metrics backed it up as well with a 0.110 xwOBA on just a 9.5% hard-hit rate. I would have loved to see what he could have done across a full 162. He was on pace for 150 strikeouts which would have ranked 55th among ALL pitchers in 2019. 




Best Changeup among starting pitchers (minimum 200 thrown) – Kenta Maeda

Of course, Luis Castillo and Lucas Giolito earn honorable mention but in my opinion, this award goes to Kenta Maeda

Maeda tossed 291 changeups this year and had the highest whiff% (45.6%) and K% (40.9%) among starting pitchers with at least 200 changeups thrown. Yeah, he was awesome but it makes Williams’ numbers above just seem impossible. Either way, Maeda’s change was great in 2020. It’s so successful because it induces so many swings outside the zone In 2020, batters chased 50.5% of the time, a career-high. When hitters actually made contact with the pitch, it was put on the ground over 2/3rds of the time and allowed just one barrel and zero homers all season. An unlikely champ but well deserving. Good luck getting him outside of the top-20 SPs next year.

 

Best Slider in 2020 (Minimum 200 thrown) – Dinelson Lamet

“Dinelson Lamet and his equal opportunity Slider. This pitch does not discriminate based on batter handedness.”


Dinelson Lamet has this one in a runaway. He easily threw the most sliders in 2020 (559 thrown) which was 53.4% of the time. This pitch is straight nasty.  Hitter’s 47.4% whiff rate (5th) and 51.4% K% (1st) is insane considering Lamet only has two pitches. He’s allowed just three home runs against his slider since the start of 2019 with over 1,100 thrown. In 2020, Lamet allowed an xwOBA of just 0.175. This one was easy.

 

Best Slider other than the GOAT Lamet (Minimum 200 thrown) – Dylan Bundy

The Honorable Mention team includes Max Scherzer, Zach Plesac, and Luis Castillo (yes, my guy LC shows up again as he improved his slider in 2020). But, the award goes to comeback pitcher of the year, Dylan Bundy! In his first season out of Baltimore, Bundy found himself in a much better ballpark and a situation where he started throwing his best pitch more frequently. I’ve been a fan of Bundy for a while now,




The point of the Tweet is that his slider was great in 2018 and even better in 2019 by the metrics but based on Pitch Value, did not produce the same results. Trust the metrics! In 2020, Bundy threw 255 sliders and his K% of 50% matches his whiff rate. As great as his slider has been in the past, it still allowed a barrel% of around 5%. This year, he did not allow a single barrel against his slider. That led to an extremely impressive 0.162 xwOBA against. 

 

Best Curveball in 2020 (Minimum 200 thrown) – Tyler Glasnow and Shane Bieber

Tyler Glasnow and Shane Bieber are essentially a virtual tie for the best curveball in 2020.

Curveball - Glasnow vs Bieber

PitcherPitchesBAWhiff%K%xSLGxwOBAHH%
Glasnow3350.1252.866.70.1980.15220
Bieber3250.09551.556.20.160.15535.3

First, let’s start with Tyler Glasnow. Wow, look at that strikeout rate! While his curve misses a ton of bats, it also induces weak contact when hitters actually make contact. The only reason it’s not the clear cut winner over Bieber’s curve is that Glasnow gave up a .277 SLG compared to a .143 SLG for Bieber. I included the xSLG for each pitch and that clearly shows that Glasnow was just a bit unlucky. He gave up three homers off his curve and while two were crushed, the other was hit at 97 mph and went 332 feet. The difference between Glasnow and Bieber’s curve is when Glasnow makes a mistake, it’s hit. Bieber has a deeper arsenal, so it’s more difficult to guess what’s coming. Glasnow has two pitches. Every once in awhile a hitter is going to guess right when Glasnow makes a mistake. The other advantage to Bieber’s curve is he buries it. See the GIF below. When hitters make contact, the average launch angle against his curve is -13 degrees! Those are worm burners. Glasnow’s while solid, is -4 degrees. Sure, Bieber gives up harder contact but if keeps it on the ground, it doesn’t matter.

via Gfycat

Now, let’s look at Shane Bieber’s breaker.

via Gfycat

I hope you enjoyed the GIFs!


AP Photo/John Bazemore)


Starting Pitchers to Stream 6/25 – 7/1 – SuperNova

This week, I’ve got four streaming options. I really like all of them. It’s a good mix of high upside and solid floor pitchers available in 75% of leagues per FantasyPros.com. Since I usually get this out Sunday morning, I’ll move this along and get right into the options for all the weekly moves leagues out there. These daily moves league players can come check in throughout the week.

Seth Lugo (NYM) 24% Home vs PIT, Monday 6/25
Lugo gets to face a middle of the road offense at home. He wasn’t good his last two times out but one of those starts was a Coors and both were on the road. Lugo is a much better pitcher this year, his K rate is up, both walk rate and contact are down. He’s also much better at home. By much better, I mean a 0.90 ERA with 29 Ks and only 2 walks with a .186 BA against. Um ok! Yes please. STREAM!

Freddy Peralta (MIL) 24% Home vs KC, Tuesday 6/26
The Royals don’t really strike out very much. They also don’t walk much and are ranked in the bottom five offensively against right-handed pitchers. Peralta’s strength is his strikeout rate thanks to a funky delivery. His weakness is his control. I’ll take Peralta over the aggressive but weak Royals and expect about a strikeout per inning. I believe Peralta can go 6 IP with a good shot at a win against the DH-less Royals. STREAM

Ivan Nova (PIT) 14% Road vs NYM, Wednesday 6/27
While Nova was busy striking out 8 batters against the Diamondbacks, the Mets were bust sucking. Nova has given up a total of 2 ER in his last 3 starts while piling up an un-Nova like 19 Ks. The Mets as a team have a .302 wOBA with a 23% K rate. This one is a no-brainer. Nova could go the distance but I’ll be conservative and say he goes 7 innings of 2 run ball with 5-6 strikeouts. STREAM

Mike Montgomery (CHC) 22% Home vs MIN, Saturday 6/30
How is Montgomery not over 25% owned? Please do me a favor and pick him up now then come back and finish reading the write-up. The Twins are just ok with average to below-average offensive production. Montgomery has only given up more than 1 ER in once in his last 6 starts. The biggest threat to MM in Eddie Rosario who should be somewhat neutralized as a left-handed batter. A start at home without the DH for the Twins gives Montgomery the edge. There won’t be 8-10 K upside but he’s a good bet for 6 IP and a handful of Ks with a good shot at a win. STREAM

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Starting Pitchers to Stream 6/18 – 6/24 Covey Don’t Lyles

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s out there! Let’s get rolling, last week was a mixed bag, a couple good pick and a couple not so good picks. We still have great numbers on the season, but we can’t let multiple weeks get away from us. Without further ado, here are my sleeper picks for this upcoming week.

Freddy Peralta (MIL) 6% Away vs PIT on Tuesday 6/19
I’ve got nothing for you on Monday for pitchers under 25% owned, I’m not trusting Bartolo Coon and Dylan Covey going against the Indians is too damn scary. Peralta is being called back up to start against the Pirates on Tuesday. You remember his dominant 13 K performance IN Colorado but then he blew up against the Twins in Minnesota. Strikeouts, walks, and deception is the name of the game with Peralta. The Pirates have struggled offensively with a wRC+ of only 92 in the past month with only an 8% BB rate. Certainly this is a huge risk and but also has probably the best upside of any streamer option this week. I’m not calling for a 13 K performance, but I think Peralta goes 5-6 IP with 7+K, the walks are anyone’s guess. I’m rolling with this one. STREAM

Tyler Mahle (CIN) 9% Home vs DET on Wednesday 6/20
I think this will be there 3rd straight week he’s made the streamers list. He’s was successful last week despite netting one K. He gets to face the Miggy-less Tigers. Again, I don’t love Mahle, he doesn’t have overwhelming stuff but he won’t only strikeout one batter again, especially against the Tigers. The Tigers have hit an MLB low 21 HR this past month and have a wOBA of only .294 in that span. It’s Nick Castellanos and … um…. Jose Igleseas or Leonys Martin as their best hitters. Yikes. STREAM

Chris Stratton (SF) 18% Home vs SD, Friday 6/22
Stratton isn’t very good you guys, but he hasn’t given up more than 3 ER in his last five starts. He’s only faced the Padres once this year, in that start he went 7 scoreless back in April. The Padres are bottom five in terms of walk rate this past month and have managed only a .294 wOBA in that time-frame. Stratton has not been good at home but he’s only allowed 3 HR at home this year in 33 IP. His BABIP has been extremely unlucky at home which is odd because his defense behind him is very good. I’m betting his luck turns around in this one and I think Stratton goes deep into this one with a decent shot at a W. STREAM

Jordan Lyles (SD) 10% Away vs SF, Friday 6/22
But wait, didn’t I just pick Stratton against Lyle’s Padres? Yes I did, and the Giants have been pretty damn good offensively this past month despite being without Belt and now lost Longoria for an extended period of time. McCutchen has heated up but I’m not concerned about the rest of this lineup. That being said, Lyles turned a positive outing this week for the first time in five starts. He hasn’t started against the Giants this year but has 4.2 scoreless innings in relief against them. Lyle’s ground ball rate looks fantastic recently, his main issue is the home runs. I think he holds the Giants down at home in this one. He’s been getting ahead of hitters nearly 70% of the time with his first pitch strike percentage. I’m in on this one, STREAM

Dylan Covey (CHW) 16% Home vs OAK, Saturday 6/23
So, I didn’t want to roll with Covey for his first start this week because, well, he’s facing the Indians. How about against the Athletics? Oakland does have some mashers, Khris Davis is hot right now, but other than KD, they are really struggling. In the past month, the Athletics have a .291 wOBA, a 22.5% K rate, and only a 7.2% walk rate as a team. I love Covey’s 61% ground ball rate, that should limit the long flys in this one. Covey isn;t a big swing a miss guy, but he also hasn’t been getting hurt with walking batters either. Covey is a good bet to go 6-7 IP with 2 ER and good ratios. STREAM