Yesterday we talked about Lincecum’s changeup being worth +2 wins by FanGraphs’ linear weights for pitch-types. I thought it would be helpful to show some of the other top pitches in the game by their pitch-type values. The following table illustrates the pitches, and the pitchers who throw them, that are worth at least 15 runs above average — or 1.5 wins.
Note that these pitch-types are by cumulative value. Because of that the table will be more likely to include pitches that get thrown a lot and that means that starters will be favored because they throw more pitches than anyone else in baseball. One reliever did sneak into the list but it’s primarily composed of starters. This also means that the list should favor fastballs (sinkers, 2-seamers, 4-seamers) because for the average starting pitcher it’s the pitch that gets thrown the most (and conversely, given the chance to add more cumulative value). For example, according to FanGraphs’ 2008 pitch selection leaderboards, the average qualified starting pitcher threw some form of the fastball 58.52% of the time. That also doesn’t included the cutter classification, which technically is also a fastball. If you lumped in cutters, it should push the total past 60%.
With those caveats in the open, let’s check the table:
|Tim Lincecum, SFG||CH||24.8|
|Jarrod Washburn, DET||FB||22.4|
|Clayton Kershaw, LAD||FB||20.9|
|Joel Pineiro, STL||FB||20.1|
|Justin Verlander, DET||FB||19.3|
|Dan Haren, ARZ||FB||19.3|
|Randy Wolf, LAD||FB||18|
|Scott Feldman, TEX||CT||18|
|Matt Cain, SFG||FB||16.4|
|Zack Greinke, KCR||FB||16.3|
|Adam Wainwright, STL||CB||15.7|
|David Aardsma, SEA||FB||15.7|
|Roy Halladay, TOR||CT||15.4|
|Chris Carpenter, STL||FB||15.1|
By these numbers, you could make the argument that Lincecum is throwing the best pitch in baseball right now. His changeup, by total value, has been worth more than any other pitch in the game. The list of pitchers with +2 win pitches is short: Jarrod Washburn’s sinker/fastball, Kershaws fastball, and Joel Pinerio’s sinker/fastball are the only other pitches to eclipse +20 runs of value. Pineiro is an interesting case. He’s apparently turned in Brandon Webb this year. After never posting a GB% higher than 48.6 he’s inducing groundballs at 61.1% this season. You can credit the renewed use of his 2-seam fastball for the turn around. Before he was traded to Detroit, Washburn was getting a ton of help from Seattle’s OF defense. By UZR, the Mariners rank as the best OF in the game and with Washburn’s flyball tendencies (42.5% of balls hit into play off him are in the air) the M’s were the perfect match for his skill-set. The Tigers have an above-average OF defense but it’s nowhere close to what Seattle has done. His transition between teams should be interesting.
The only reliever to make this list is ex-Giant, David Aardsma. His fastball is very impressive. It averages 94 mph and he throws it 88.3% of the time. His season reminds me a little of Grant Balfour’s 2008 season in Tampa Bay. Both are guys that just rear back and throw heat that gives hitters fits. Matt Cain’s fastball has been worth 16.4 runs this season, placing it as one of the better pitches in the game.
It’s a good list of pitchers for Tim (and Matt) to be associated with. I’m not sure I’ve seen a pitch come along faster than Lincecum’s changeup. It’s a pitch that, when he was drafted, was scouted as his third best pitch behind his fastball and curveball. Pretty amazing stuff.
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