This is the 6th article in a series of articles about the beautiful creation known as Statcast. I encourage you to check out the previous articles on four-seam fastballs, cut fastballs, curveballs, sliders and knuckle curves. Statcast is a resource provided by MLB.com via the website baseballsavant.mlb.com. There seems to be an endless amount of data here to mine…and it’s all at our fingertips. The question is: how can we use this data to help us fantasy baseball addicts in our baseball player analysis for fantasy baseball purposes? In reality, this Statcast data is merely multiple pieces to a larger puzzle when analyzing each individual baseball player. It is new and exciting data that deserves analysis, but we should not lose sight of all the other resources on the Internet at our disposal.
Currently I want to focus on starting pitcher analysis with Statcast data. However, just not blanket analysis. Drilled down analysis looking at a single pitch. Today I want to look specifically at two-seam fastballs.
Now we are going to get into some statistics that are courtesy of baseballsavant.mlb.com. I want the readers to know for a starting pitcher to enter the data that I pulled for analysis they had to have a minimum of 100 total pitched thrown in that season (although I dropped that down to 10 in the current season).
The Goals Of The Two-Seam Fastball:
Of course, with any pitch, the starting pitchers love to miss the hitters bat with this pitch. However, another goal of this pitch is to get ground balls…if contact is made.
Does The Average Spin Rate Matter With Two-Seam Fastballs?:
In the previous articles we were looking at the average spin rate of the pitches and whether the belief that a higher average spin rate on each pitch really mattered all that much. Well, the remaining pitches in this article series we will be looking at all are pitches that have proponents that believe that a lower spin rate is one aspect that makes these pitches effective. We will have to see what the data set shows.
Average spin rate obviously is not the only thing that helps a pitch be an effective pitch. There are many other factors that lead to whether a pitch thrown will be successful. Some of them are (in no particular order): velocity, pitch placement, talent level of defensive player ball is hit closest too, where the ball it hit, how hard it is hit, etc.
I looked over the data sets from 2015 (130 starting pitcher performances), 2016 (132 starting pitcher performances) and 2017 (116 starting pitcher performances) and I do not see in the numbers a noticeable pattern that specifically ties certain average spin rates to batting average against or whiffs% (whiffs divided by swings) performance results.
When looking at the 2015 and 2016 full season data sets, not surprisingly, I found that…generally speaking…of the starting pitchers that had the confidence in the pitch to throw it 1000 or more times in that season, the ones that had the top whiffs percentages (whiffs%) typically had lower batting average against numbers.
The 1000 Or More Two-Seam Fastballs Thrown Starting Pitcher Performances:
Chris Sale (2015): 1747 two-seam fastballs thrown, .248 batting average, .318 BABIP, 28.3% whiffs%
Chris Sale (2016): 1870 two-seam fastballs thrown, .231 batting average, .260 BABIP, 21.1% whiffs%
David Price (2016): 1333 two-seam fastballs thrown, .269 batting average, .305 BABIP, 17.7% whiffs%
Scott Kazmir (2016): 1162 two-seam fastballs thrown, .296 batting average, .370 BABIP, 17.1% whiffs%
Dallas Keuchel (2015): 1717 two-seam fastballs thrown, .239 batting average, .269 BABIP, 15.6% whiffs%
Shelby Miller (2015): 1097 two-seam fastballs thrown, .308 batting average, .342 BABIP, 15.2% whiffs%
Ubaldo Jimenez (2015): 1204 two-seam fastballs thrown, .295 batting average, .339 BABIP, 14.8% whiffs%
Francisco Liriano (2015): 1306 two-seam fastballs thrown, .293 batting average, .332 BABIP, 14.6% whiffs%
Tanner Roark (2016): 1970 two-seam fastballs thrown, .255 batting average, .305 BABIP, 14.5% whiffs%
Aaron Sanchez (2016): 1592 two-seam fastballs thrown, .250 batting average, .273 BABIP, 13.7% whiffs%
Tanner Roark (2017): 1062 two-seam fastballs thrown, .290 batting average, .351 BABIP, 13.6% whiffs%
Tyson Ross (2015): 1030 two-seam fastballs thrown, .275 batting average, .314 BABIP, 13.1% whiffs%
Marcus Stroman (2017): 1160 two-seam fastballs thrown, .301 batting average, .317 BABIP, 13.1% whiffs%
Martin Perez (2016): 1134 two-seam fastballs thrown, .279 batting average, .288 BABIP, 13% whiffs%
Ivan Nova (2016): 1219 two-seam fastballs thrown, .294 batting average, .302 BABIP, 12.8% whiffs%
Ty Blach (2017): 1066 two-seam fastballs thrown, .295 batting average, .309 BABIP, 12.7% whiffs%
Luis Perdomo (2016): 1247 two-seam fastballs thrown, .285 batting average, .297 BABIP, 12.6% whiffs%
Marcus Stroman (2016): 1371 two-seam fastballs thrown, .309 batting average, .318 BABIP, 12.1% whiffs%
Francisco Liriano (2016): 1370 two-seam fastballs thrown, .312 batting average, .306 BABIP, 11.5% whiffs%
Charlie Morton (2015): 1194 two-seam fastballs thrown, .316 batting average, .337 BABIP, 11.3% whiffs%
Aaron Harang (2015): 1000 two-seam fastballs thrown, .316 batting average, .357 BABIP, 10.7% whiffs%
Bartolo Colon (2016): 1788 two-seam fastballs thrown, .257 batting average, .275 BABIP, 10.4% whiffs%
Kyle Gibson (2015): 1208 two-seam fastballs thrown, .285 batting average, .298 BABIP, 10.2% whiffs%
Doug Fister (2016): 1317 two-seam fastballs thrown, .292 batting average, .314 BABIP, 10% whiffs%
Rick Porcello (2016): 1199 two-seam fastballs thrown, .269 batting average, .298 BABIP, 9.9% whiffs%
Bartolo Colon (2015): 1458 two-seam fastballs thrown, .275 batting average, .298 BABIP, 9.7% whiffs%
Zach Davies (2016): 1181 two-seam fastballs thrown, .300 batting average, .326 BABIP, 9.5% whiffs%
Dallas Keuchel (2016): 1154 two-seam fastballs thrown, .304 batting average, .343 BABIP, 9.5% whiffs%
Zach Davies (2017): 1312 two-seam fastballs thrown, .281 batting average, .301 BABIP, 8.9% whiffs%
Analysis: In the above list of 29 starting pitcher performances, the 5 performances that had a 15.6% whiffs% or higher had batting averages against of .248, .231, .269, .296 and .239. Of the remaining 24 starting pitcher performances none had batting averages against of under .250. Also, of that remaining 24 starting pitcher performances, 21 had batting averages against of .269 or higher.
Also, please note that the .296 batting average against (Scott Kazmir in 2016) in the top 5 whiffs% performances also had a very high .370 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) that went along with it. Mr. Kazmir simply could have been very unlucky on the mound that season with this pitch.
The conclusion for me on two-seam fastballs, as far as an easy to sort pattern, is this: Look for the starting pitchers with the two-seam fastballs that have the confidence to throw it 1000 or more times in a season. Then look for the ones that have a 15.6% or higher whiffs% on the pitch. Chances are good that the starting pitchers who meet those standards have a very good to elite level two-seam fastball in their arsenal.
Of course, this easy sort method will only unearth a small percentage of the starting pitchers that have an effective or better two-seam fastball. However, when I do analysis on pitchers I will look more closely at this pitch (if the pitcher depends upon it enough in his arsenal) as I already will be looking in-depth at the pitcher like I do with all players when I do a player analysis.