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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 – Double Dose of the Dutch Oven

Starting Pitcher streamer options owned in 25% or less per FantasyPros Yahoo/ESPN ownership rates from August 20th – August 26th. Michael Kopech gets the call on Tuesday against the Twins this week for the White Sox. I don’t usually pick up a starter for his MLB debut (cough Sean Reid-Foley cough) mostly because of adrenaline, nervousness, etc. However, his upside for strikeouts is so high, he might be worth a shot. I would stay away for the first start but absolutely grab him and hold him if available. GRAB HIM NOW!

Derek Holland (SF) – 24%, Away vs NYM on Monday 8/20 AND Home vs TEX in Saturday 8/25
The Dutch Oven graces the streamer list for the second time in three weeks. The stream against the Mets seems obvious even though they did blow up for 24 runs against the Phillies this past week. However, offensively the Mets rank 29th out of 30 against left-handed pitching and have s 25.5% K rate as a team against those lefties. Holland has come back down to earth a little but he’s still getting strikeouts and has only allowed 4 ER or more once in his last 11 starts. STREAM.
Now for the Rangers. They have been on fire recently but that’s because Arlington is a launching pad all Summer. On the road though, the Rangers have a .300 wOBA and a 26% K rate. Not to mention, there’s no DH in this one. I think you can roll with Holland twice this week. STREAM x 2

Jake Junis (KC) 19% Away vs TB, Wednesday, 8/22
Junis has not had a very good Sophomore campaign. However, his last three starts have been good where he’s only given up four earned runs to go along with 21 strikeouts.  There’s two reasons for that, first he’s throwing his slider nearly 50% of the time and second, his fastball/sinker is not the homer-prone pitch it was earlier this year. Tampa Bay is a middle of the road team offensively but I think Junis can keep them at bay especially with his increased slider usage. I like Junis and his ability to get a K per innings with a quality start in this one. STREAM

Matt Boyd (DET), 24% at Home vs CHW, Thursday, 8/23
Over the last 30 days, the White Sox have a near 28% strikeout rate as a team, that’s the worst in the league by more than 3%. What’s more, they are in the bottom 10 in walk rate as well. Now, looking at Boyd, his slider has fueled his increased strikeout rate as he’s increased his slider usage from 10% to 30% this year. The pitch value on his slider is 14.4 per FanGraphs this year which ranks sixth in MLB for the pitch. Boyd’s fly ball tendencies posses a bit of a risk but his recent low walk rate combined with the White Sox elevated K rate makes this a solid STREAM.

Tyler Glasnow (TB), 24% at Home vs KC, Thursday, 8/23
Ok, I know Glasnow just got blown up in his last start, but it was against Red Sox in Fenway. More importantly, he went a season-high 6.2 innings and faced 25 batters. Including that start, Glasnow has a 3.38 ERA, 0.80 WHIP with 24 K in 18.2 IP as a starter. The Royals are bad, we know this. They have been a little better of late (20th wOBA last 30 days), but are bottom four offensively for the entire season. Outside of Whit Merrifeld, no one worries me at all. There’s no other streaming option that has 9 to 10 strikeout upside. Plus, we know he can go up to 100 pitches, so a quality start is still in play. STREAM

Reynaldo Lopez (CHW). 16% Away vs DET, Friday 8/24
I just pulled the trigger on Lopez for his two-start week annnnnnnnnnd it did not go well. He gave up four ER in seven innings against the Tigers on Monday and is currently getting beat up in the 2nd inning against the aforementioned Royals. Ugh, Lopez, you really let me down! If Lopez can’t get it done against those opponents, I can’t trust him here. I promise, I won’t be recommending Lopez the rest of the year. He’s a potential deep sleeper for next season, but I need to see more consistency. STAY AWAY