Pitch Values: Top 10 Fastballs of 2010 MLB Season

Bleacher ReportContributor IIIMarch 26, 2011

Pitch Values: Top 10 Fastballs of 2010 MLB Season

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    Chapman throws the hardest, but he doesn't make this list.
    Chapman throws the hardest, but he doesn't make this list.Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Before the start of the season, I wanted to see which pitchers statistically had the best fastballs, curveballs, sliders, cutters, changeups and splitters of the 2010 season.

    Here are a look at the top fastballs of the 2010 season. A few notes:

    The pitch value data was created by Fangraphs.com. I will be using the statistic, wFA, which denotes the runs above average for a particular pitch—in this case a fastball.  

    The wFA stat benefits starting pitchers and pitchers who throw a certain pitch more often, because the more often you throw a pitch, the better the chances are of it being successful.

    Sometimes, PITCH/FX does not sort pitches into the right category. For example, Brandon Morrow’s splitter was categorized as a fastball.

    Both two and four-seam fastballs are lumped together.

    Best Cutters

    Best Sliders

    Best Curveballs

    Best Changeups

    Best Splitters  

10. Clay Buchholz

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    SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 15:  Starting pitcher Clay Buchholz #11 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 15, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    wFA: 20.8 

    Average velocity: 94.1 miles per hour

    Buchholz may not generate a lot of swing and misses (6.22 K/9), but his moving fastball helps him record 50 percent of his outs via the ground. 

    Buchholz throws his fastball 54.1 percent of the time, and it helped him keep his home runs down to nine in 173 innings. 

9. David Price

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    ST. PETERSBURG - OCTOBER 06:  Pitcher David Price #14 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the Texas Rangers during Game 1 of the ALDS at Tropicana Field on October 6, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    wFA: 23.5 

    Average velocity: 94.6 miles per hour

    Price threw his fastball 74 percent of the time during the 2010 season.

    He will throw both a four-seam fastball (average 95.3 miles per hour)and a two-seam fastball (average 92 MPH). 

    I noticed that his two-seamer has a lot of movement moving away from right-handed hitters. 

    The fastball was Price's most successful pitch, which helped him record a strikeout rate of 8.11 K/9.

    He only gave up 15 home runs in 208.2 innings. 

    miles per hour

8. Matt Cain

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    SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 19:  Matt Cain #18 of the San Francisco Giants pitches in the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Three of the NLCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at AT&T Park on October 19, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Ph
    Harry How/Getty Images

    wFA: 23.6 

    Average velocity: 91.6 miles per hour

    Cain's fastball dipped in average velocity during the 2010 season (92.6 miles per hour in 2009), but it still had the excellent, natural running movement into right-handed batters.

    Cain used the pitch 63.2 percent of the time, and recorded a strikeout rate of 7.11 K/9. 

    Cain, who recorded an out via the fly ball 46 percent of the time, kept his home-run rate to only 0.89 HR/9.  

7. Johan Santana

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    SAN FRANCISCO - JULY 18:  Johan Santana #57 of the New York Mets pitches against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on July 18, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    wFA: 24.3 

    Average velocity: 89.4 miles per hour

    Santana had the second-lowest average velocity of the pitchers on this countdown. It decreased significantly from the 90.5 miles per hour it averaged in 2009.

    Santana is known to have one of the better changeups in baseball, and that impacts a batter's ability to pick up the fastball.

    He used his four-seamer (89.6) just as frequently as his two-seamer (89.2 miles per hour), the latter with more movement running away from right-handed batters.

    The dip in velocity must have helped in dropping Santana's strikeout rate from 7.88 K/9 in 2008 to 6.51 K/9 in 2010.

6. Ted Lilly

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    DENVER - SEPTEMBER 27:  Starting pitcher Ted Lilly #29 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 25, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    wFA: 24.5 

    Average velocity: 86.8 miles per hour

    It was a shock to see Lilly on this list, but his four-seam fastball (87.2 miles per hour) has a lot of vertical movement that induced a lot of infield fly outs.

    Lilly started throwing a two-seam fastball, which averaged 86 miles per hour, 16 percent of the time. He allowed 32 home runs in 193.2 innings.  

    Lilly has a tough arm angle to pick up, and he uses three other secondary pitches that keep hitters off balance. He had a strikeout rate of 7.71 K/9.  

5. Felix Hernandez

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    SEATTLE - JUNE 24:  Starting pitcher Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Chicago Cubs at Safeco Field on June 24, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    wFA: 25.5 

    Average velocity: 94.1 miles per hour

    Hernandez uses a four-seam (94.4 miles per hour), but his two-seamer (93.8 miles per hour) was a revelation in 2010. It moves five more inches in to right-handed batters than his four-seamer. 

    That two-seamer helped Hernandez record his highest K/9-rate at 8.36, and record 53 percent of his outs via the ground. 

4. Cliff Lee

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    OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06:  Cliff Lee #33 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on August 6, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    wFA: 26.4 

    Average velocity: 91.3 miles per hour

    Cliff Lee throws mostly two-seam fastballs that have tremendous movement away from right-handed batters. His four-seam fastball has a little more movement up in the zone, but he doesn't throw it that often.

    Lee's fastball command is second to none, and it is the reason his career took off in 2008. He throws a fastball 63 percent of the time, and it is statistically his best pitch.  

3. Trevor Cahill

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    BALTIMORE - MAY 26:  Trevor Cahill #53 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Camdem Yards on May 26, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    wFA: 27.7 

    Average velocity: 90.4 miles per hour

    Trevor Cahill throws his two fastballs a total of 64 percent of the time. But his two-seamer/sinker is the pitch he relies on heavily. The pitch has a lot of sinking movement down in the zone, and it has tons of horizontal movement going from left-handed batters to right-handed ones. 

    Cahill recorded 56 percent of his outs via the ground, and his two-seam fastball is responsible for that success. 

2. Ubaldo Jimenez

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    DENVER - SEPTEMBER 27:  Starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez #38 of the Colorado Rockies works against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Coors Field on September 25, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. Jiimenez failed to earn his 20th win of the season as the Dodgers defeated
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    wFA: 30

    Average velocity: 96.1 miles per hour

    Ubaldo Jimenez uses a mix of two and four-seamers that totaled 61 percent of his pitches thrown in 2010. The two-seamer has the same velocity, but it runs inside to a right-handed hitter more than the four-seamer, which explodes high in the strike zone. 

    Jimenez recorded 48 percent of his outs on the ground, and he struck out 8.69 per nine innings in 2010. 

1. Tim Hudson

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    ATLANTA - OCTOBER 3:  Pitcher Tim Hudson #15 of the Atlanta Braves throws a pitch during the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field on October 3, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  The Braves beat the Phillies 8-7.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty I
    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    wFA: 32.1

    Average Velocity: 91.2 miles per hour

    Tim Hudson had the most effective fastball (and pitch) during the 2010 season. This two-seam fastball quite possibly has the best downward action of any fastball in baseball. 

    Hudson used it almost 64 percent of the time and he was able to record 64 percent of his outs via the ground.