Collette Calls: New Pitch Junkie

Collette Calls: New Pitch Junkie

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

Hi, my name is Jason, and I am a New Pitch Junkie.

While others have spent time in recent weeks crying over season finales, arguing about Oscar winners, watching llamas and debating the color of a dress, I've spent time on Google and Twitter looking for any tidbits about pitchers working on new pitches.

Just about one year ago, I wrote a piece at Fangraphs looking into what pitchers were working on new pitches while interviewing both a former and current pitchers as to why pitchers come to camp to work on pitches. In late August, I wrote a follow-up piece that showed 17 of the 23 qualified pitchers saw their strikeout rate improve in 2014 from 2013; 16 of those 17 pitchers saw a spike in their swinging strike rate while 15 allowed less contact than in 2013. That was enough of an improvement for me to renew the hunt for new pitches in 2015.

If adding a new pitch gives a pitcher a better chance of exceeding at least his strikeout projection, if not more, then we need to see who is in camp putting in the work. The list of new pitches thus far looks like this:

Jordan Lyles - split-fingered changeup
Nate Eovaldi - more changeups, splitter
Justin Verlander - two-seamer or a cutter
Nick Greenwood - side-arm breaking ball
Seth Maness - curveball
Lance Lynn - changeup
Adam Wainwright - changeup
Marco Gonzales - cutter

Hi, my name is Jason, and I am a New Pitch Junkie.

While others have spent time in recent weeks crying over season finales, arguing about Oscar winners, watching llamas and debating the color of a dress, I've spent time on Google and Twitter looking for any tidbits about pitchers working on new pitches.

Just about one year ago, I wrote a piece at Fangraphs looking into what pitchers were working on new pitches while interviewing both a former and current pitchers as to why pitchers come to camp to work on pitches. In late August, I wrote a follow-up piece that showed 17 of the 23 qualified pitchers saw their strikeout rate improve in 2014 from 2013; 16 of those 17 pitchers saw a spike in their swinging strike rate while 15 allowed less contact than in 2013. That was enough of an improvement for me to renew the hunt for new pitches in 2015.

If adding a new pitch gives a pitcher a better chance of exceeding at least his strikeout projection, if not more, then we need to see who is in camp putting in the work. The list of new pitches thus far looks like this:

Jordan Lyles - split-fingered changeup
Nate Eovaldi - more changeups, splitter
Justin Verlander - two-seamer or a cutter
Nick Greenwood - side-arm breaking ball
Seth Maness - curveball
Lance Lynn - changeup
Adam Wainwright - changeup
Marco Gonzales - cutter
Tyson Ross - split-change
Trevor Bauer - sinker, splitter
David Carpenter - splitter
Archie Bradley - slider/cutter
Brett Oberholtzer - cutter
Tsuyoshi Wada - cutter
Shane Greene - more changeups
Carlos Rodon - changeup
Max Scherzer - cutter
Jorge De Leon - splitter
Craig Kimbrel - changeup

Jordan Lyles adding the changeup is a good thing because of his struggles against lefties. If you were to look at only his batting average against, you would say Lyles is split-neutral because his career numbers are not that far apart. However, lefties get on base at a much higher clip against Lyles because his strikeout rate and his walk rate against lefties is inferior to what he does against righties. Having the changeup to fade away from the lefties and to get them to swing and miss will be a weapon. Anything to get fewer hard hit balls in Coors Field.

The same sense of urgency exists for Nate Eovaldi as he leaves the comforts of TheTaxpayersofMiamiWereScrewed Stadium and moves into Yankee Stadium with its short porch. Lefties have hit Eovaldi at a .292/.350/.421 clip throughout his career as he is primarily a fastball/breaking ball against them. Not only is he a two-pitch guy, but most of what he throws is away from lefties. When a pitcher does that, the batter has two choices on pitch type, but only one guess on location - away. With the splitter, Eovaldi has something with less velocity to throw at lefties, something that will locate down in the zone, and something that will get swings and misses. Despite a high-velocity fastball, Eovaldi doesn't have a big strikeout rate for his career because of the lack of the offspeed pitch. This has the potential to be a game-changer for him.

Justin Verlander is making the transition to the stage of his career where his top-shelf velocity leaves him. It happens to every pitcher and they have to adjust. Clemens added a splitter, Ryan became more efficient with his changeup and Johnson threw a splitter. Verlander's issues may have been more prominent last year, but his fastball has been getting progressively easier to hit in recent years.

2011 - .211
2012 - .253
2013 - .285
2014 - .286

Note that the 2013 and 2014 batting average off his fastball were not terribly different. The larger issue for him last season was his non-fastballs. In 2013, the league hit .224 against his non-fastballs, and he still enticed empty swings with 30 percent of those pitches. Last season, the league hit .263 against his non-fastballs, and his swing-and-miss rate on those pitches fell to 25 percent. Worse yet, the slugging percentage off his non-fastballs was in the bottom 25 percent of the league. Now, he's talking about adding a cutter or a two-seamer. While this may help him with better ratios, neither of those pitches are going to help with a strikeout rate because neither pitch is a swing-and miss-pitch. Cutters are for enticing weak contact and two-seamers are for generating groundballs.

Lance Lynn is a more intriguing story. By the larger sample size, Lynn has a splits issue.

SPLITPITCHESBAOBPSLGK%BB%
vs. LHP4,775.256.355.7641913
vs. RHP5,591.236.286.630275

Yet, a year-by-year view at his numbers against lefties paints a slightly different picture.

SPLITPITCHESBAOBPSLGK%BB%
20121,508.272.384.4561914
20131,518.259.361.4041913
20141,513.244.325.3721710

We should always look at the larger sample size, but we also see year-by-year improvement in his numbers against lefties. Now Lynn is ready to take it to the next level with a changeup that "is going to be a force." His swing-and-miss rate on pitches against lefties is five full percentage points lower than it is against righties, so adding that third pitch into the mix that is designed to generate swings and misses and move away from lefties could push this strikeout hoss over the 200-K plateau for the first time in his career.

His teammate, Adam Wainwright, is taking the mothballs off his changeup. After throwing 200-plus a season from 2009 to 2012, he's thrown less than 40 the last two seasons. The lack of the pitch isn't so much a problem for him because his big hammer curve is an equally effective pitch to combat splits. His stats don't play out a reason why, and his velocity has been rather consistent. The fact he's started off camp with a sore side muscle could lead to him leaving the pitch in his storage locker.

Yet another Cardinals pitcher, Marco Gonzales, is adding a cutter. He's trying to get into the back end of the rotation in 2015 while competing against Carlos Martinez and Tyler Lyons. We have more than 600 pitches of sample size from Gonzales, but his numbers profile as a reliever more than a starter because he has reverse splits. He was extremely tough on lefties (.143/.219/.179), but his swing-and-miss rate against them was an anemic 10 percent. Righties hit him at a .267/.379/.448 clip, but swung and missed 29 percent of the time, and 26 of his 31 strikeouts last season came against righties. The cutter would allow him to both get in on the hands of the righties for weaker contact and give him something to front door to lefties as he rarely threw inside to them last season.

Tyson Ross, coming off a career season, has decided it was not enough and is adding a split-changeup to his repertoire this season. Ross has primarily been fastballs and breaking balls to both sides of the plate, and that approach naturally leads to some splits.

SPLITPITCHESBAOBPSLGK%BB%
vs. LHP3,790.261.349.3661911
vs. RHP3,844.24.306.342248

Like Lynn, Ross's numbers have gotten progressively better against lefties, but adding a new pitch for him is more of a career-lengthening move than anything else -- 94 percent of the pitches thrown in his career have been fastballs or breaking balls, and a third of his overall pitchers have been breaking balls. We know from the work Jeff Zimmerman did that pitchers who rely on breaking balls that much are a more extreme risk to end up on the disabled list than others. Adding the split-change will result in more swings and misses as well as less stress on his arm.

Trevor Bauer has decided that throwing 17 pitches is not enough and is now looking to add a sinker and a splitter. Bauer's MLB numbers are a bit all over the place, but the potential is still there, and he already has an above-average strikeout rate for starting pitchers. Now, can he cut down on the walks so he's more than just a one-category pitcher?

David Carpenter is moving into the Yankees pen and is bringing a splitter with him. Carpenter already had a strong strikeout rate and hardly has any career splits, so it is an interesting move and one that could make him an even better source of strikeouts and ratios in deep AL leagues.

Brett Oberholtzer is a fringe pitcher looking to add a cutter and make a leap forward as teammates Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh did last year for Houston. It is at least worthy of a cursory look in the AL end game if he is in the rotation.

Shane Greene wants to throw more changeups this season after hardly using it in the past. He does have R/L splits in play and his strikeout rate is cut in half against lefties. Adding the change gives him a much-needed weapon against lefties and also makes him an attractive late sleeper in AL leagues as he should be Detroit's fifth starter.

Finally, from the "That's Just Not Fair" department, we have three pitchers. Superstud prospect Carlos Rodon is adding a changeup -- a pitch he hardly needed while dominating collegiate batters and minor-league batters in recent years. Max Scherzer is adding a cutter, which will give him three pitches from the same release point to righties, and he's already limited them to a .225/.278/.366 line the last six seasons. He'll also now be able to backdoor that against lefties as he tries to avoid his one weakness statistically, which is pitching glove side to lefties. And Craig Kimbrel is throwing changeups in camp. He tells MLB.com's Mark Bowman he always does this as a way to get ready for the season, but he doesn't use it in season. As Francisco Rodriguez has shown us, the fastball and breaking ball aren't always there and eventually closers have to adjust. K-Rod has done it better than just about anyone, and it's a transition that Kimbrel will eventually have to make in his career. If he were to unleash a changeup in-season to go along with what he already has ... look out!

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only MLB Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire MLB fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999, and here at Rotowire since 2011. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast every Sunday. A ten-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls,and was the 2023 AL LABR champion. Jason manages his social media presence at https://linktr.ee/jasoncollette
College Baseball Picks Today: Saturday, February 24
College Baseball Picks Today: Saturday, February 24
Hitting Category Targets for 2024
Hitting Category Targets for 2024
Farm Futures: Relief Pitching Prospect Rankings
Farm Futures: Relief Pitching Prospect Rankings
College Baseball Picks: Friday, February 23
College Baseball Picks: Friday, February 23