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Going Full Corbin: Pitchers Who Should Throw Their Best Pitch More

Patrick Corbin has made a case for himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball. He produced 14 wins in 202.0 innings pitched with a 3.25 ERA and 28.5 K%. Corbin wasn’t always this good though. In 2016, his ERA was a pedestrian 5.15 with a mediocre 18.7 K%. Suddenly, Corbin decided to start throwing his best pitch (slider) more, thus resulting in his strikeout rate to rise while his ERA reached elite levels. Below you can see each year with his slider percentage, his K%, and his ERA.

Year K% ERA Slider Usage
2016 18.7 5.15 25.6
2017 21.6 4.03 37.3
2018 30.8 3.15 41.5
2019 28.5 3.25 37.7

Corbin experienced amazing results once he upped his slider usage by more than 10%. Seeing what Corbin has done is amazing and I believe that other pitchers could do this as well. The players below need to make a pitch mix change where they use their best pitch, in doing so they might be able to pull off a Patrick Corbin in 2020. 

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Michael Wacha’s Changeup

Michael Wacha threw his changeup 23.7% of the time in 2019 which wasn’t nearly enough. He likes to place it in the bottom right corner of the zone and utilizes the pitch very well (8.8 pVAL). Hitters really struggled to make contact as the 21.7 SwStr% is well above the 15.2% average mark. When batters did make contact, they only put up a .201 average, 59.3 GB%, and 5.8 Barrel%. Essentially the pitch created weak contact and a lot of whiffs. If Wacha can up his changeup usage closer to the 30% mark he could greatly benefit from it, especially if his curveball is the pitch he starts to use less often. As for Wacha’s outlook, I am hoping he ends up providing some value in 2020, but in most leagues, I would leave him on the wire and see if he even makes it into the Mets' rotation.

 

Mike Leake’s Slider

Mike Leake threw his slider only 12.8% of the time in 2019, and my question is: why doesn’t he throw it more? He has good command over it and hits the lower left part of the zone consistently. Hitters only had a .185 average against it and hit it on the ground 47.1% of the time. It also posted some gaudy numbers as it had a 45.1 O-Swing%, 40.5 Zone%, and 15.5 SwStr%. Besides his slider, Leake is pretty terrible and unless he does a complete pitch mix overhaul I won’t be looking his way for the 2020 season. 

 

Pablo Lopez’s Changeup

Pablo Lopez uses his changeup 22.0% of the time (his second most used pitch) but he should definitely bump it closer to 25/30%. The changeup breaks slightly right and fools hitters into inducing ground balls 57.1% of the time as he constantly places it at the bottom of the zone. Not just that but batters only had a .224 average against it with a 4.8 Barrel% and 17.2 SwStr%. One of the reasons it works so well is because of the eight MPH drop off it has compared to his fastball. Lopez is a deep sleeper in Miami's rotation as he has a decent curveball and changeup with a fastball that should improve in 2020.

 

Mitch Keller’s Slider

Mitch Keller has been getting a lot of attention this offseason for two reasons. First, he was one of the unluckiest pitchers in 2019 and second, he has an amazing slider. Keller threw his slider 20.8% of the time in 2019 and he really needs to up that usage to Corbin’s level of 35/40%. Batters chased it often (50.5 O-Swing%) and had a lot of trouble putting the barrel on the ball (26.8 SwStr%). Keller’s changeup isn’t good (391 wRC+) and it’s the pitch he needs to get rid of in favor of his slider. The entire world is hoping the new Pirates coaching staff emphasizes on breaking balls more than the old regime. Already a top prospect, Keller can become a massive fantasy asset if the pitch mix is corrected.

 

Dylan Bundy’s Slider

It seems as if we have been saying this for years now, Bundy needs to throw his slider more. In 2019, Bundy threw his slider only 22.7% of the time while he really favored his four-seam fastball. Unfortunately, his four-seam fastball isn’t that great as he loves to leave it over the plate and let batters feast on it. Bundy’s slider was stellar as always producing a 4.8 Barrel%, .152 batting average against, with a .113 ISO. A big reason for its success is he throws it slow (81.4 MPH) with a vertical movement of -2.2. This makes it look like a curveball to batters but while it dips it also slides out of the zone, completely fooling hitters. Bundy has a new home in Anaheim and last year the team was top five in slider usage. Our wishes may finally come true and if they do, Bundy will provide tremendous draft value.

 

Keep An Eye Out

When it comes to spring training and early in the season you should always keep an eye out for pitchers who are changing their pitch mix. Going back to Patrick Corbin, if you caught him utilizing that slider a lot more you could have easily seen the breakout coming. The names above are only a few pitchers who could improve by using their best pitch more. Always pay attention to what a pitcher is doing especially once the season starts.

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