MLB: Five Pitchers With Underused Offerings

MLB: Five Pitchers With Underused Offerings

I recently scoured Alex Chamberlain's Pitch Leaderboard, looking at the best pitches in terms of swinging-strike and whiff rates. Several rarely used pitches rank highly in terms of their ability to elicit swings and misses. We'll use an arbitrary cutoff here of around 100 pitches thrown to examine offerings by a mix of notable pitchers and deep-league streamers, including Adrian Sampson, Josh Winder, Kevin Gausman, Spencer Strider and Brayan Bello

Is the success of these pitches noise, given the small samples involved? Should these pitchers throw their offerings more often? We'll examine these pitches with quality swinging-strike and whiff rates to see if we should be paying more attention.

Adrian Sampson's Cutter

After bouncing around with the Rangers, the Lotte Giants of the Korean Baseball Organization and now the Cubs, Sampson has shown streamer-like qualities. He owns a 3.97 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 17.9 percent strikeout rate and a 6.1 percent walk rate. His below-average 9.6 percent swinging-strike rate aligns with the strikeout minus walk rate.  

Sampson uses four pitches over 13 percent of the time, plus a cutter that he uses just 5.6 percent of the time. On FanGraphs, Sampson's cutter hasn't registered, so there's a chance it's a classification issue. He threw nearly all his cutters (60 out of 62) against right-handed hitters, and the results stink, with hitters posting a .364 BA, .636 SLG and .470 wOBA against the pitch. Given the uber-small sample of the cutter and its poor results, it

I recently scoured Alex Chamberlain's Pitch Leaderboard, looking at the best pitches in terms of swinging-strike and whiff rates. Several rarely used pitches rank highly in terms of their ability to elicit swings and misses. We'll use an arbitrary cutoff here of around 100 pitches thrown to examine offerings by a mix of notable pitchers and deep-league streamers, including Adrian Sampson, Josh Winder, Kevin Gausman, Spencer Strider and Brayan Bello

Is the success of these pitches noise, given the small samples involved? Should these pitchers throw their offerings more often? We'll examine these pitches with quality swinging-strike and whiff rates to see if we should be paying more attention.

Adrian Sampson's Cutter

After bouncing around with the Rangers, the Lotte Giants of the Korean Baseball Organization and now the Cubs, Sampson has shown streamer-like qualities. He owns a 3.97 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 17.9 percent strikeout rate and a 6.1 percent walk rate. His below-average 9.6 percent swinging-strike rate aligns with the strikeout minus walk rate.  

Sampson uses four pitches over 13 percent of the time, plus a cutter that he uses just 5.6 percent of the time. On FanGraphs, Sampson's cutter hasn't registered, so there's a chance it's a classification issue. He threw nearly all his cutters (60 out of 62) against right-handed hitters, and the results stink, with hitters posting a .364 BA, .636 SLG and .470 wOBA against the pitch. Given the uber-small sample of the cutter and its poor results, it seems like there isn't much to like about Sampson's rarely used offering. 

Josh Winder's Changeup

We'll keep it short for Winder since he hasn't started for the Twins since July 12 due to a shoulder injury. Winder doesn't get many strikeouts and has an unexciting profile, with a 3.77 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 7.9 percent strikeout minus walk rate. He provided fantasy value when healthy with four quality starts, with zero earned runs in each of those outings. 

Winder has two pitches with a double-digit swinging-strike percentage, which doesn't align with his low strikeout rate and below-average 10.5 percent overall swinging-strike rate. Winder's changeup elicits an 18.6 percent swinging-strike rate, and his slider sits at 16.6 percent. That could indicate more strikeouts coming, leading to league-average strikeout numbers.

The batted ball results on the slider remain excellent, with a .300 SLG and .222 wOBA. Meanwhile, Winder's changeup has a high batting average allowed at .320, though it limited contact quality with a .400 SLG and .316 wOBA. His slider and changeup don't pop in terms of vertical or horizontal movement, but the double-digit swinging-strike rate on those two pitches makes him a streaming pitcher to monitor when he returns down the stretch or in 2023. 

Kevin Gausman's Changeup

When thinking of Gausman, his nasty splitter typically comes to mind. That splitter is elite, with a 26.4 percent swinging-strike rate. He usually mixes in a changeup every now and then, though it boasts a 28.6 percent swinging-strike rate. It's probably a mix of noise and something to monitor since the results look positive in 2022 yet Baseball Savant shows only 45 thrown. While it could be a pitch classification issue, Gausman's changeup has a different movement profile from his other offerings.

Spencer Strider's Changeup

Strider has been one of the waiver wire winners in 2022, as he's ridden a lethal four-seamer and slider to a breakout season. Although we could gush over the heater and breaker, we're here to discuss his offspeed pitch. Strider added a changeup this year, throwing it 5.4 percent of the time with a 16.8 percent swinging-strike rate. We seem to have a trend here of rarely used changeups eliciting quality results. Strider's changeup has allowed just two hits, resulting in a .095 BA, .190 SLG and .118 wOBA. 

Like most right-handed pitchers, Strider uses the changeup primarily against lefties, with 92 out of the 101 he's thrown coming against opposite-handed hitters. While his changeup doesn't have an above-average movement profile, it keeps opposing hitters thinking about a third offering, one that fades away from lefties. Theoretically, Strider should use the changeup more, but that's easier said than done. 

An early 2023 draft hosted by Rob DiPietro included Ryan Rufe and James Anderson. James wrote his thoughts here, and Ryan also examined the draft, focusing on the 2023 closer landscape. I reference them because Strider went in round five to Ryan Bloomfield at pick 66 as SP21, or SP22 if you include Shohei Ohtani. That seems like a fair ADP for Strider, around the range that Freddy Peralta, Logan Webb, Kevin Gausman and Max Fried went 2022 NFBC leagues. 

Brayan Bello's Changeup

For Brayan Bello, we're cheating a bit here since he threw his changeup 115 times in his rookie campaign. Bello mixes in four pitches: a sinker (37.1 percent), changeup (25.1 percent), four-seamer (20.1 percent) and slider (17.7 percent). We're dealing with a small sample of 26 innings, but Bello's changeup has produced a 19.1 percent swinging-strike rate, with his four-seamer at 12 percent. The batted ball results align on his changeup, with batters struggling to a .208 batting average, .208 SLG and .278 wOBA against it. 

Bello's stuff looks filthy from a movement standpoint, with three pitches showing above-average break and drop. His changeup has 17 inches of horizontal fade, 2.3 inches more than the average. Unfortunately, the surface results and walks highlight some significant concerns, as he owns a 7.27 ERA, 2.08 WHIP, 18.8 percent strikeout rate and 11.7 percent walk rate. Bello has also been unlucky with a brutal .448 BABIP and a 62.5 percent strand rate. 

James Anderson has Bello as a top-100 prospect, and one could attempt to buy low given his awful surface metrics. The data indicates Bello possesses nasty stuff and struggles with control and command, which aligns with his prospect reports. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Corbin Young
Corbin Young loves fantasy baseball and football. Recently, he received an FSWA nomination for a Fantasy Football Ongoing Series. Corbin loves diving into and learning about advanced metrics. He is a Mariners and Seahawks fan living in the Pacific Northwest. Corbin's other hobbies include lifting weights, cooking, and listening to fantasy sports podcasts.
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