Pittsburgh Pirates: Who has the best pitch on the pitching staff?

Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

 Who has the most 'efficient' pitch on the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff? That was a thought that came across my mind while digging through the endless data on Baseball Savant. I thought it would be a fun exercise to kind of get to know some of the analytics available, and to see if there is surprises that come up.

Needless to say, yea there was one surprise in my findings.

One of the things I love about baseball is how easy the numbers translate. The sport itself and analytics pair up so naturally, unlike others that are still trying to find a common ground.

Like any sport, there are extremes to each side, but with baseball there seems to be less ground in the middle.

So who has the best singular pitch on the Pirates' pitching staff? Looking at numbers like Run Value (per 100), opponent average, xwOBA, and whiff percentage, among a few others I came up with a list of the top five singular pitches on the team.

Some of the metrics, not all of them, that was taken into account when making these rankings. The chart isn't listed in any particular order.






Kyle Crick Slider





Richard Rodriguez Fastball





JT Brubaker Slider





Sam Howard Fastball





Duane Underwood Changeup





5. Richard Rodriguez's Fastball

This may be a shocker, considering Rodriguez's heavy reliance on his fastball that's going along with his success this season. He could have been ranked higher, but I more or less gave the tie breaker to the next person on the list.

Rich-Rod's fastball has the second best RV/100 (-2.3) and best xwOBA (.244) on the pitching staff, and well as limiting opponents to the third lowest batting average. He right in the middle of the pack in strikeout percentage, and further down in whiff percentage, the main reason he didn't land higher on the list.

In the end, the fact that Rodriguez's fastball is more reliant on balls put into play, even with a great defense behind him, is the reason it ended up fifth on this list.

4. J.T Brubaker's Slider

JTBs slider and Rich-Rod's fastball were really close, but I gave the edge to Brubaker due to the swing and miss ability with his pitch. Not only is Brubaker's slider one of the best on the Pirates in generating strikeouts (38.7% whiff rate, 29.9% put away rate), it also ranks among the league's best, especially when you start narrowing it down to only include starters.

I've written recently in how good Brubaker has bounced back since a couple of rough outings in May. The home run ball hurt him in his last start, but he still displayed his usual wipeout slider.

Just to show how good it has been on a bigger spectrum, gathering players with a larger sample size, Brubaker ranks 10th and 14th in whiff rate and put away percentage, respectively.

3. Sam Howard's Fastball

Yea, that was a shocker to me seeing that. Obviously the slider is the pitch that he is known for, and it's great in it's own right but the numbers speak for themselves when it comes to his fastball. His slider, despite him using it the majority of the time, didn't qualify due to there not being enough plate appearances ended in it.

His fastball has held his opponents to the second lowest batting average on the Pirates (.176), and no pitch on the team has a higher strikeout percentage (38.7%). One outing aside, it's easy to see why Howard has been one of the best left handed relievers in baseball.

2. Duane Underwood' Changeup

This isn't a surprise. Underwood's changeup is one of the best out pitches in all of baseball (36.1% put away rate). Overall, there are only a few players that you may be able to say has a better changeup than Underwood, especially out of the bullpen.

He has also used the pitch to generate a 41.7% whiff rate, and a .265 xwOBA. He makes the pitch count, and saves it for he needs the swing and miss, only using the pitch 28% of the time.

1. Kyle Crick's Slider

This is probably not a surprise. Crick's slider is a pitch that analytical people love. The high spin rate, movement, and all other metrics speak to just how dominant the pitch is.

Of course it obviously passes the eye test.

Opponent's have struggled to make solid contact on the pitch Crick throws 61.4% of the time, holding only a 25% hard hit rate with his slider. He also leads the team in opponent's average (.130) and RV/100 (-2.5), while ranking second in xwOBA (.253).

What pitch was the biggest surprise to be on this list? Do you think that one should have ranked higher? Of all the pitches not mentioned, which do you think makes the best case in being included in the top five? Let us know in the comment section below, subscribe to the site with the link at the top and follow us on Twitter @SportBlogMurphy.

Also, you can follow me on Twitter @AJ_Murfy.


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