There’s a toy over at Brooks Baseball—well, he probably wouldn’t call it a toy, but I use it as a toy—that I just love. For each pitch thrown by each pitcher, it assigns a “scouting scale” number for certain characteristics and results: velocity, movement, release point, whiff rate, groundball rate, etc. As you know, on the 20-80 scouting scale, 50 is average and each standard deviation represents 10 points up or down the scale. For instance, Aroldis Chapman’s average fastball velocity is a bit more than three standard deviations from the average left-hander's, so, per Brooks, his fastball velocity is assigned an 84 (lol) on the scouting scale. Dallas Keuchel’s groundball rate on his sinker is nearly three standard deviations higher than the typical lefty sinkerl in that specific aspect, it gets a 79. It’s a toy, of course, because that’s not to say Keuchel’s sinker is an 80 pitch, or that a scout would put an 80 on it, or that you should put an 80 on it; it’s just that, statistically, in this one aspect of it, compared to other pitchers, in the period of time surveyed, his was that far from normal.
So what about the '80' pitches in this year’s postseason? Glad you asked. There are precious few, befitting the concept of the 80. I looked at all the starters on all 10 teams, and depending on what you consider valuable enough to include, found only about a dozen pitches that were an 80 in some characteristic or outcome. Here are five of them, told mostly with GIFs and only sparsely with words. Today’s piece is a quick one.
Madison Bumgarner’s four-seam fastball, whiff rate
Surprising for a few reasons: The cutter (or slider, but this is just semantics) is generally considered his signature pitch; if you consider it a slider, only one starter threw more sliders than he did this year. Also, Bumgarner’s four-seam velocity isn’t overpowering, as he slots just behind Roenis Elias and Tyler Skaggs among lefty starters. But it comes from one of the most extreme release points (an 80 release point, according to Brooks’ toy) and is usually at the belt or higher. You saw the swing-and-miss GIF up there, but look at the other two fastballs he threw in that same at-bat, one fouled off and one taken; if a foul and a take could ever look as bad as a swinging strike, McBride accomplished it.
Clayton Kershaw’s four-seam fastball and slider, groundball rate
Notable because four-seam fastballs and sliders are not groundball pitches. They are for Kershaw, who gets higher groundball rates with his four-seamer and slider than Trevor Cahill gets with his sinker.
Yordano Ventura’s fastball velocity
(In which GIF features as many people paid to be in it as paying to be in it.)
Yusmeiro Petit’s curveball “drop”
Not only the movement stands out, but the whiff rate and his pop-up/BIP rates get 80s. Notable because, from 2010 through 2012, in his very limited big-league service time, he barely threw the curveball, relying on his command of an 87 mph fastball while throwing the curve just 8 percent of the time. Now, he relies on the curve that he throws 24 percent of the time, while also commanding an 87 mph fastball.
Francisco Liriano’s changeup’s whiff and groundball rates
Rarely mentioned as one of the game’s great pitches. Might deserve to be.
Other, lesser "80s":
- Danny Duffy’s two-seam fastball whiff rate against lefties
- David Price’s four-seam whiff rate against righties
- Lance Lynn’s four-seam whiff rate against righties
- Gerrit Cole’s GB rate with four seamer; and two-seam whiff rate vs. lefties
- Michael Wacha’s GB/FB rate with changeup
- Stephen Strasburg’s SL whiff rate
*Pitchers were compared to like-handed starters only, using 2014 data, and "scout scores" over 76 were rounded up.
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