Best Pitches of the First Half of the 2011 MLB Season

Bleacher ReportContributor IIIJuly 13, 2011

Best Pitches of the First Half of the 2011 MLB Season

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    I detailed the best pitches of the 2010 season in March, and I got some interesting reactions and discussions, so I decided to list the five best pitches according to pitch type for this season.  

    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. 

    The first five slides will detail the best pitches from starting pitchers, but I reserved the last slide for the five best pitches from relievers.

    Remember, these are the most successful pitches from this season, and are dependent on the pitcher's effectiveness and innings pitched this season. 

Best Fastballs

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    1. Jered Weaver's fastball has a pitch value of wFA 22.5, and averages 89.6 mph. He features both a two-seam fastball and four-seam, and he has recorded a swing and miss 12.9 percent of the time with the pitch. 

    2. Justin Verlander's fastball ranks second with a wFA of 21.6. It has averaged 95.2 mph this season, and he recorded a 16.7 percent swinging strike percentage with the combination of his two- and four-seam fastballs. 

    3. Cliff Lee's four- and two-seam fastballs recorded a 17.5 wFA through the first half of the season, and he averaged the highest velocity of his career (91.5 mph). He has averaged a swing and miss 16.3 percent of the time with those pitches.

    4. Ian Kennedy's fastball ranks fourth with a 17.3 wFA, and he has recorded the second-highest average velocity of his career (89.9 mph). He also throws a four- and two-seam fastball, and they have recorded a swinging strike percentage of 13.8.

    5. C.J. Wilson's fastballs fall in at number five with a wFA of 16.3. Both his four- and two-seam fastballs have an average velocity of 90.7 mph, and he has recorded swings and misses 10.7 percent of the time.  

Best Sliders

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    1. Clayton Kershaw's slider has saved the most runs this season with a wSL of 18.0. The pitch averages 83.4 mph this season, and Kershaw has been able to record a swinging strike with the pitch 47.2 percent of the time. 

    2. Bud Norris ranks second on this list with a wSL of 17.3. Norris throws his slider 35.6 percent of the time and it averages 85.8 mph. His swinging strike percentage with the pitch is 39.4 percent.

    3. Ervin Santana throws his slider 38.2 percent of the time, and it has the third best rating with a wSL of 16.2 It averages 82 mph, and he recorded a 44.3 percent swinging strike percentage during the first half of the season.

    4. Gavin Floyd's slider is classified a cutter this season on Fangraphs, but most experts consider it a slider. It ranks fourth with a 13.6, and he records a swinging strike 26.4 percent of the time with the pitch. It has averaged 85.4 mph this season. 

    5. Jhoulys Chacin settles in at number five with a wSL of 11.8. He has averaged 82.8 mph with the slider, and he has the greatest swinging strike percentage among sliders on this list with a rate of 57.8 percent.

Best Cutters

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    1. Dan Haren has thrown the most valuable cutter among starting pitchers this season. The pitch has a wCT of 25.2, and it has averaged 85 mph with a swinging strike percentage of 26.8 percent. 

    2. Roy Halladay's cutter ranks second with a wCT of 13.6, and it has averaged 91.2 mph. He throws the pitch at a 46.9 percent clip, and it has a 19.2 swinging strike percentage.

    3. Jon Lester falls behind Halladay with a 13.1 wCT. His cutter averages 89 mph, and it has recorded a 26.9 percent swinging strike rate.

    4. Jaime Garcia's cutter has been labeled as a slider elsewhere, but he refers to it as a cutter. It ranks fourth on the list with a wCT of 10. He likes to use the pitch 21.4 percent of the time, and it averages 85.4 mph.

    5. Josh Beckett grabs the last spot with a wCT of 9. He is throwing the pitch with more regularity this season (17.8 percent), and it has averaged 89.7 mph. This season, Beckett has a swinging strike percentage of 25.1 percent with his cutter.   

Best Curveballs

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    1. A.J. Burnett's curveball ranks as the top pitch with a wCB of 10. He has thrown the pitch 32.1 percent of the time, and with the highest average velocity of his career at 82.3 mph. Opposing hitters swing and miss at the pitch at a 51.7 percent rate.

    2. Roy Halladay makes his second appearance on this list with a curveball that has a rating wCB rating 9.5. He is only using the pitch 13.7 percent of the time (the lowest of his career), but his swinging strike percentage with the curveball is 43.1 percent. 

    3. Jonathon Niese owes a lot his success this season to his 74.4 mph curveball that has a wCB rating of 9.1. Niese features the curve more than 24 percent of the time, and he has recorded a swinging strike rate of 32.1 percent. 

    4. Justin Verlander also makes his second appearance on this countdown with a wCB rating of 8.9. Verlander owns a 25.6 percent swinging rate, and he features the pitch more than 19 percent of the time with an average velocity of 79 mph. 

    5. Wandy Rodriguez secures the last spot on the curveball list with a wCB rating of 8.5. He features he slow 12-6 curveball at more than 35 percent, and he has a swinging strike rate of 25.5 percent with the hook. 

Best Changeups

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    1. Felix Hernandez has thrown the best changeup in the majors this season with a wCH of 16. He throws the pitch with the greatest velocity on this list (average of 89.5 mph), and he has a swinging strike percentage of 26.8 with the pitch.

    2. James Shields ranks second on this list with wCH of 16. Shields has a reputation of featuring one of the best changeups in the game, as he features it 28.3 percent of the time this season. He has the second-highest swinging strike percentage of any changeup on this list with a 39.2 percent rate. 

    3. Cole Hamels falls behind Shields with a wCH rating of 13.1. Hamels features his 82 mph changeup more than 22 percent of the time, mostly to right-handed batters. The pitch has recorded a swinging strike percentage of 48.6 percent. 

    4. Jeremy Hellickson is the only rookie on these lists and ranks fourth with a wCH of 12.3. He features the pitch 32.7 percent of the time, and it averages 80.7 mph. He has recorded a 34.5 percent swinging strike rate with the pitch. 

    5. Jered Weaver secures his second spot on the countdown with a wCH of 12.3, but he ranks lower than Hellickson because of his lower swinging strike rate (28.7 percent). He features the pitch over 14 percent of the time, and it possesses a 10 mph difference from his fastball. 

Best Splitter

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    Not many starters qualify to the have the best splitter as pitch/fx often confuses the pitch with a changeup. For the record, Ryan Dempster has the highest wSF with a 6.2. He has thrown the pitch 18.2 percent of the time and it averages 81.2 mph with a swinging strike rate above 30 percent.

Best Pitches from Relievers

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    Best Fastball: Johnny Venters' sinking fastball ranks as the best overall pitch from a reliever this season. The fastball averages more than 11 inches of movement, and it has a wFA of 14.2. He averages 94.7 mph on the pitch with a swinging strike percentage close to 26 percent.  

    Best Slider: Sergio Santos' slider sits at the top of the chart with a wSL of 9.5. Santos, who uses the pitch at a 29.3 percent rate, averages 84.5 mph with the pitch. He has recorded an 80 percent swinging strike rate with his slider, which is the highest of any pitch in on this list.  

    Best Cutter: Surprisingly, Mike Adams has the most successful cutter of 2011 with a wCT of 10. He throws the pitch over 60 percent of the time with an average velocity of 87.7 mph, and it has a 24.4 percent swinging strike rate.  

    Best Curveball: Jose Veras has the top curveball among relievers with a wCB of 6.8. The pitch averages 78.6 mph, and Veras throws it regularly at a 36.2 rate. He generates a swinging strike at a 40.1 percent rate with the pitch.  

    Best Changeup: The most surprising appearance on this list belongs to David Pauley. His changeup has a relievers' best wCH of 8.4, and it has an impressive 32.5 percent swinging strike rate.  

    Best Splitter: Edward Mujica's splitter ranks as the most effective during the first half of this season with a 6.9 wSP. He has recorded a swinging and miss 20.9 percent of the time with the pitch, and features it 39.1 percent of the time. It averaged 85.2 mph this season.