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STATS Pitch-Type Awards for May

By: Stats Perform

As we announced about this time a month ago, STATS is going to choose which pitchers have had the best specific pitch in every common pitch type category for the month. However, the winners from the previous month – March/April in this case – are disqualified.

This time around, STATS will highlight the hurlers that deserve recognition for how they executed their outstanding pitch in May. 

To do the analysis, we used the following four metrics, created by STATS:

Command(+): How well a pitcher hits his spots according to STATS’ proprietary Pitch Intent data

Discipline(-): How well a pitch forces a bad choice by the hitter (swinging at a ball/taking a strike)

Whiff(+): How well a pitch generates swings and misses

BIP(-): How well a pitcher is at limiting quality contact

These metrics were selected because they evaluate the effectiveness of various aspects of pitching. League average for each of these metrics is set at 100. For Whiff+ and Command+, the value above (or below) 100 indicates the percent better (or worse) than league average; the reverse is true for BIP- and Discipline-, where values less than 100 indicate better performance.

Based on those numbers, here are the STATS Pitch-Type Awards for May, 2019.

Four-Seam Fastball: Gerrit Cole (HOU)

For the second month in a row, Cole led the league in Whiff+ for pitchers who threw at least 150 four-seam fastballs, so we had to reward him. He had a 249 Whiff+ in May, meaning his four-seam fastball caused a swing-and-miss from the batter 149 percent more than league average. Watch him blow one by Cubs slugger Javy Baez.

Runners-Up: Julio Teheran (ATL), Justin Verlander (HOU) 

Teheran’s four-seamer ranked first in both generating poor contact (BIP-) and Command+ for the month of May. Despite that, his fastball was mediocre at generating many whiffs, giving Cole the edge. Verlander is seemingly always in contention. He was one of only 10 pitchers to score at or above 100 in every category with his fastball. His best ranking of those was third in Whiff+.

Two-Seam Fastball: Jake Odorizzi (MIN)

Odorizzi was spectacular over the past month, not allowing a run in four of his five starts. His two-seam fastball generated whiffs 79 percent more than average, second behind only Josh Hader’s two-seamer. He also was second in generating poor contact with a BIP- of just 19. Hader’s disqualification might have helped Odorizzi here, but he’s still a worthy choice.

Runners-Up: Zack Wheeler (NYM), Lance Lynn (TEX)

Wheeler led the league in command of his two-seam fastball, hitting his spot 36 percent more than the typical major leaguer. Lynn’s two-seamer was just solid all around, ranking in the top 10 of three different categories. The pitch caused poor contact 79 percent more than league average. 

Changeup: Nick Ramirez (DET)

Easy choice. Ramirez’s changeup easily led the league in Discipline- with a mark of 31. That means the rookie caused a poor decision from the batter 69 percent more than the average MLB changeup. He also was second in generating whiffs. Ramirez fools Twins outfielder Byron Buxton with this one.

Runners-Up: Tommy Kahnle (NYY), Daniel Norris (DET)

Kahnle’s changeup was the only one that edged Ramirez in Whiff+ with a 216 rating. Norris, Ramirez’s running mate on the Tigers, had a crazy good -38 BIP- for his changeup, so we had to give him some recognition for forcing such bad contact on those pitches.

Curveball: German Marquez (COL) 

Marquez’s curveball had the best combination of either forcing a poor decision from the hitter (Discipline-) or forcing bad contact (BIP-). He was also second in Whiff+, causing a swing-and-miss 102 percent more often than the MLB standard. Below is an example of him forcing one of those poor decisions.

Runners-Up: Robbie Ray (ARI), Shane Bieber (CLE)

Two peculiar cases here. Ray’s curveball had a -53 BIP-, the best rating of any pitcher that threw at least 100 curveballs in May. However, he was well below average at forcing hitters to make bad decisions on those curveballs. Bieber, on the other hand, had the best Whiff+ at 241, but he ranked dead last in BIP-. In other words, people missed his curveball the most, but when they hit it, they hit it really hard. 

Cutter: Kenley Jansen (LAD)

In a month when a lot of the typical cut-fastball pitchers struggled, Jansen comes out a winner. Aside from one bad outing in May, Jansen did not give up a run in his nine other appearances as the Dodgers closer. His cutter ranked second in Whiff+, causing a swing and a miss 76 percent more than league average.

Runners-Up: Dan Winkler (ATL), Martin Perez (MIN)

Two rough outings at the end of May probably cost Winkler the cutter award, but he still had the best combination of BIP- and Discipline-. This was probably the most difficult award to hand out because most pitchers who were good in one statistical category were atrocious in another. Martin Perez was the exception. He was the only pitcher who threw at least 100 cutters to rank above-average in all four statistics.

Slider: Justin Verlander (HOU)

Usually, it’s Verlander’s fastball that is in the running for an award, but Verlander’s slider was just excellent all-around in May. Of pitchers who threw at least 100 sliders, his was second in BIP-, third in Whiff+, third in Command+, and 10th in Discipline-. Watch Verlander throw his third slider in a row to fan White Sox rookie Eloy Jimenez.

Runners-Up: Corbin Burnes (MIL), Amir Garrett (CIN)

Burnes’ slider was absolutely electric after he made the transition from the rotation in April to the bullpen in May. His Whiff+ was the best in league, and his slider forced bad contact 102 percent more than league average. Garrett’s slider was second in Discipline- and Whiff+, so basically he was causing poor decisions that often resulted in a swing-and-miss.