Ranking the Best Pitchers in MLB by Pitch Type
We all know who the best pitchers in baseball are. They are the world's Justin Verlanders, Roy Halladays, and Clayton Kershaws. They are dominant, effective, and exciting to watch.
But what sometimes goes underappreciated is how good some of their pitches are. In many cases, a pitcher is only as good as his best pitch. For others, a well-rounded repertoire is the key to success. Regardless, it is not surprising that some of the best pitchers in baseball also throw some of the nastiest pitches.
I have split the pitches up into seven types: four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, cutter, sinker, changeup, slider, and curveball.
The data is taken from the Pitch F/X data on FanGraphs, where the pitches are measured by run value. For example, a fastball with a value of 5.0 means that the pitcher's fastballs were five runs better than league average over the course of the season. This slideshow uses run value data, by pitch, from the 2009 through 2011 seasons.
There will be two slides per pitch—one for the fifth- through second-ranked pitchers, and another for the best pitcher of that respective pitch.
Without further ado, here's a look at some of the most dominant pitches in baseball.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
No. 5: Hiroki Kuroda, Dodgers RHP
Sinker value: 15.4 runs
No. 4: Scott Baker, Twins RHP
SInker value: 16.4 runs
No. 3: Jonny Venters, Braves LHP
Sinker value: 16.8 runs
No. 2: Trevor Cahill, Diamondbacks RHP
Sinker value: 21.8 runs
The Best Sinker Belongs To...
Daniel Shirey/Getty Images
Tim Hudson, Atlanta Braves RHP
Sinker value: 37.1 runs
Hudson has always thrived on his sinker and the ability to induce ground balls. It should be no surprise that the veteran's average ground ball rate is an astounding 59 percent for his career. Think about that—three out of every five balls hit off of Hudson are ground balls. No wonder he has a career 3.40 ERA.
Greg Fiume/Getty Images
No. 5: Chad Billingsley, Dodgers RHP
Cutter value: 21.5 runs
No. 4: Dan Haren, Angels RHP
Cutter value: 38.1 runs
No. 3: Jon Lester, Red Sox LHP
Cutter value: 42.6 runs
No. 2: Roy Halladay, Phillies RHP
Cutter value: 47.0
The Best Cutter Belongs To...
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees RHP
Cutter value: 50.6 runs
Is anyone surprised? Didn't think so.
The legendary closer and future Hall of Famer has relied on his devastating cutter throughout his career, and no one has been able to figure it out. It very well might be the nastiest pitch in baseball history.
J. Meric/Getty Images
No. 5: Gio Gonzalez, Athletics LHP
Two-seam value: 14.6 runs
No. 4: Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians RHP
Two-seam value: 21.4 runs
No. 3: David Price, Rays LHP
Two-seam value: 22.0 runs
No. 2: Doug Fister, Tigers RHP
Two-seam value: 25.8 runs
The Best Two-Seamer Belongs To...
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies LHP
Two-seam value: 43.3
The dominant lefty is arguably one of the best command pitchers in baseball. Though his velocity is not explosive, Lee relies on excellent movement and pinpoint command to make his two-seam fastball baseball's best. It sets up his plus curveball and changeup very nicely.
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
No. 5: Edwin Jackson, RHP
Slider value: 34.3 runs
No. 4: Luke Gregerson, Padres RHP
Slider value: 34.6 runs
No. 3: Randy Wells, Cubs RHP
Slider value: 38.0 runs
No. 2: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers LHP
Slider value: 42.5 runs
The Best Slider Belongs To...
Brad White/Getty Images
Ervin Santana, Los Angeles Angels RHP
Slider value: 45.9 runs
The up-and-down righty is now a proud owner of a no-hitter, but his inability to throw a great fastball has been Ervin Santana's downfall throughout his career. However, he does possess a top-notch slider that is 10 miles per hour slower than his fastball. If you've never seen it, his slider is an excellent, excellent pitch.
Brandon Wade/Getty Images
No. 5: Ricky Romero, Blue Jays LHP
Changeup value: 28.5 runs
No. 4: James Shields, Rays RHP
Changeup value: 34.7 runs
No. 3: Felix Hernandez, Mariners RHP
Changeup value: 41.6 runs
No. 2: Tim Lincecum, Giants RHP
Changeup value: 42.1 runs
The Best Changeup Belongs To...
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies LHP
Changeup value: 44.6 runs
Philadelphia's longest-tenured starter, Cole Hamels also is proud owner of baseball's best changeup. It has tremendous movement, and though the speed differential against the fastball isn't ideal (only about seven miles per hour), he is still very adept at getting hitters to swing and miss at the change. This is a major reason why he has posted a career 3.39 ERA.
Rob Carr/Getty Images
No. 5: Brett Myers, Astros RHP
Curveball value: 23.0 runs
No. 4: Bronson Arroyo, Reds RHP
Curveball value: 24.7 runs
No. 3: Roy Halladay, Phillies RHP
Curveball value: 26.0 runs
No. 2: Wandy Rodriguez, Astros LHP
Curveball value: 26.8 runs
The Best Curveball Belongs To...
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals RHP
Curveball value: 36.4 runs
One of the most amazing things about the Cardinals' World Series victory this year was that they did it without arguably their best pitcher. Adam Wainwright missed the 2011 season, yet still had a curveball that was 10 runs more valuable than second place finisher Wandy Rodriguez. That is a testament to just how dominant Wainwright's bender can be. Baseball will be a better place with Wainwright back on the mound.
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
No. 5: Ted Lilly, Dodgers LHP
Fastball value: 37.8 runs
No. 4: Justin Verlander, Tigers RHP
Fastball value: 38.6 runs
No. 3: Josh Johnson, Marlins RHP
Fastball value: 42.8 runs
No. 2: Matt Cain, Giants RHP
Fastball value: 49.9 runs
The Best Fastball Belongs To...
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers LHP
Fastball value: 62.5 runs
The NL Cy Young winner throws the best fastball in baseball, no questions asked. It regularly sits in the mid-90s with devastating command, setting up an equally devastating slider and a quality curveball and changeup. He is the total package as a pitcher, but Kershaw lives off of his fastball. It is truly a thing of beauty.