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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)


Top Waiver Wire Adds for the Stretch Run



We are approaching the end of July and playoffs in Head-to-Head leagues are just around the corner. Maybe you’re looking for an edge in your Rotisserie league to put you over the top. Either way, I’m taking a look at a collection of hitters and pitchers who may be available on your waiver wire. I’ll cover shallow and deep league adds to put you at an advantage over your league-mates. I’ll look at ownership rates based on FantasyPros.com ESPN/Yahoo combined.

Jesse Winker (CIN) – OF, 39% Owned
I absolutely love Winker’s approach. He’s walking more than he’s striking out and since June 1st no one in Major League Baseball has a higher OBP (.476). His .400 BABIP in that time frame is high, but when you consider his 53% hard contact rate combined with a near 35% line drive rate, it’s justifies an elevated rate. Winker doesn’t provide speed and I wish he’d hit the ball in the air more because a 32% fly ball rate isn’t going to yield more than 20 homers. Either way, he’s a great source of average/OBP, runs, and can provide some pop. Add in all leagues

Rougned Odor (TEX) – 2B, 45% Owned
If you left Odor for dead months ago, I don’t blame you. Early on, Odor somehow looked worse than his did in 2017. There was a time in May where Odor had an infield fly rate of over 35%! At that time, he also had a high quantity of weak ground balls, it was ugly. Since the start of June, he’s cut his IFFB% to a much more reasonable 10%. His hard contact has been sitting around 40% and his zone contact is up around 90%. The results are there as well, he’s hitting .300 with six home runs and seven steals since June 1. Odor is an add in all leagues right now. Add in all leagues

Ketel Marte (ARI) – SS, 22% Owned
Marte basically did nothing the first month and a half like most of the Diamondbacks, but has been solid since. Marte has improved on his O-Swing and currently has a very solid 92% zone contact rate. Since June 1st, Marte turned up the power with 8 HR, 2 steals and a .281 average. His walk rate has also improved and his 43% hard contact rate since the start of June is well above league average. Marte hits too many balls on the ground to have huge power upside but also has more speed than he’s displayed. I love players with high contact rates that have 15-20 HR upside. Grab him for solid average, 5-8 HR and a few steals. Add in 14-team and deeper leagues

Jake Bauers (TB) – 1B, 23% Owned
Bauers is another young hitter with elite plate discipline. These are my kind of players and he’s got above average speed for a first baseman. Bauers is similar to Winker because he squares up a lot balls with a 46% hard contact rate but a low 33% fly ball rate will cap his power. He does strike out a bit more than Winker but it’s still just about league average. Bauers possess above average speed which is rare for 1B eligible players. He profiles as a 15-20 HR hitter with around 10 steals and a .275-.280 average over a full season. He gets a bump in OBP leagues. Add in 12-team and deeper leagues; add in all OBP leagues



Jason Heyward (CHC) – OF, 33% Owned
Yes, I know, it’s Jay-Hey. He hasn’t been fantasy relevant for about 2.5 years and it’s not like he’s killing it this year with only six homers and one steal. However, his .284 average with a .351 OBP are at least helpful in all formats. Plus, he’s hitting .302 with four home runs since June 1. Joe Maddon has even began slotting him the two-hole at times which has boosted his run production. The last two seasons, Heyward averaged 114 runs+RBI, this year he already has 94 runs+RBI, on pace for 150. His strikeout rate is also down to a career low 10.7%, so he’s likely going to keep the batting average steady. He’s still not 12-team viable but in 15 team leagues, he can help in two-three categories. Add in 14-team and deeper leagues

Charlie Culberson (ATL) – SS, 3B, OF, 2% Owned
Culberson has basically been a utility player for the Braves this season managing only 188 plate appearances in 2018. The leg injury to Ozzie Albies has given Culberson the start at second base the last few days but he’s also been used at 3B and the outfield. As the Dog Days of summer start rolling in, Culberson could find a little bit more playing time. Since the start of June Culberson is hitting .303 with 4 homers and 2 steals in only 117 plate appearances. No one is rushing out to get him but if you need depth at MI, CI, or in the outfield in deeper leagues, he’s a good bench guy to grab. Add in deep 15-team and NL Only leagues

Garrett Hampson (COL) – 2B, 5% Owned
The Rockies prospect was called up last week after hitting 8 homers and compiling 33 steals across two levels in 2018. He’s filling in for the injured DJ LeMaheiu but could stay up if he performs well. Hampson has great speed and should continue running in the Majors. He managed to get 51 steals in High-A in 2017 so I wouldn’t be surprised if he swiped eight to ten bags if he remains up with the big club. Hampson is also not a zero in terms of power, especially in Colorado. I’d be very aggressive in adding Hampson in all leagues because of his intriguing upside but understand he could be sent back down in a couple weeks. I’d roll the dice. Add in 12-team and deeper leagues

Pitchers

Shane Bieber (CLE) - SP, 47% Owned
Bieber has been impressive in his short stint in the Majors thus far. He was sent back down during the All-Star break to continue to get work but has since been called back up. He’s been fantastic and has managed a 3.52 ERA with an outrageously inflated .362 BABIP. Bieber has given up a high percentage of hard contact, so a low HR/FB might jump up a bit. That might be OK if the BABIP regresses. Plus, he’s got above average O-Swing, SwStr rate, and contact rate compared to league average. His walk rate sits at a minuscule 4.4%, so free passes are not an issue. I love Bieber, and he’s my top add of this pitching group. Add in all leagues

Kevin Gausman (BAL) - SP, 42% Owned
Gausman continues to be inconsistent but he seems to pull things together in the second half. The timing of this isn't great after the beating by the Red Sox, but Gausman's peripherals look as good as ever. His swings outside the zone sits near 35% and his swinging strike rate is a career high 11.5%. Gausman doesn't give up a ton of hard contact in a year where hard contact is up 3% across the board. Maybe it's the 3.58 career second half ERA with a strikeout rate that's 4% higher after the All-Star break. Either way, he's due some positive regression. Add in 12-team and deeper leagues

Jordan Zimmerman (DET) - SP, 27% Owned
After an awful start to the season, I had all but forgotten about Zimmerman. Prior to this season, he hadn’t provided a K/9 over 6.0 since 2015. That’s trash for fantasy purposes. This year, he’s over 8.0 K/9. He’s lower his fastball and upped his slider usage, which is great. In his last six starts he has a 2.21 ERA with a 30.1 K-BB% and 22% soft contact rate. As long as he keeps throwing the slider over 35%, I recommend him in all leagues.

Dereck Rodriguez (SF) - SP, 25% Owned
Ivan’s son might not play the same position as his Hall-of-Fame Father, but he certainly inherited his cannon for an arm. Rodriguez is another low-strikeout pitcher, which I understand isn't exciting, but that’s where the value is on the waiver wire. Everyone wants the 10 K/9 pitchers, so there’s less available. His best pitch is probably his changeup and his sinker is by far the worst pitch in his arsenal. Rodriguez’s sinker only gets ground balls 45% of the time. Sinker’s typically don;t get swings and misses and D-Rod’s is not different, but they are effective because of the high ground ball rates near 60%. A 45% rate will not cut it. It sounds like I’m talking you out of grabbing Rodriguez, but here’s the thing. Since June 16th, he’s cut his sinker usage and has thrown more change ups. Since then, he has a 1.98 ERA! The trend is getting better as well as his change up usage is over 20% over his last two starts compared to a season low for the sinker.Whew, sorry that was long winded. Either way, he and his pitching coaches are figuring out the combination that works. Go get em in 12-team and deeper leagues

Zack Wheeler (NYM) - SP, 23% Owned
Wheeler is healthy and slinging fastballs around 97 mph and has touched 100 mph several times in recent starts. Wheeler’s 4.44 ERA, 8.89 K/9, and 3.35 BB/9 don’t exactly jump off the page at you, but he’s been better than the numbers indicate. Wheeler is generating a ton weak contact and limits hard contact. He has two plus pitches, his fastball and slider which he throws a combined 77% of the time. He’s also increased his swinging strike rate to an above average 11% and has increased swings outside the zone. Since May 22nd, Wheeler has a 3.63 ERA with a 2.99 BB/9. His SIERA and FIP match his sub-4.00 ERA and I think the best is yet to come with Wheeler. He’s intriguing in most leagues.



Tyler Mahle (CIN) - SP, 17% Owned
Mahle is a young pitcher who has given up quite a few homers but has some decent swing a miss stuff. Since June 1 he sports a 3.78 ERA with nearly a strikeout per inning and his homerun rate is down 0.5 HR/9 from his season rate. Not bad but he still has an elevated walk rate. Mahle is a streamer in 12 team leagues but I'd grab him in 15-team and deeper leagues.

Michael Pineda (MIN) - SP, 1% Owned
Remember Pineada? He used to post great strikeout numbers, walk no one and give up a ton of home runs. Well, he's with the Twins now and is beginning to throw in simulated games. He's scheduled to be back by the start of September and plays in a better pitchers park and doesn't get to face much of the AL East. He's a deep league stash for some strikeout upside. It's risky, but for deep 15+ team leagues, you could do much worse.



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