The Phillies' Best Pitches of 2010

In my previous post, I discussed just how sucky Kyle Kendrick's sucky changeup was in 2010. This got me to thinking: between Hamels's changeup, Oswalt's fastball, and Halladay's everything, it is common knowledge that this Phillies pitching staff boasts some of the best stuff in baseball (sucky Kendrick excepted). But, quantitatively speaking, what were the best pitches thrown by Phillies last year? Some of the answers might surprise you, some of them will not. If you are anything like me, you can be entertained by these kinds of numbers for hours. If you are not, then you might find this to be a pretty boring exercise.

Before we get started, it might help to familiarize yourself with "pitch type linear weight," or the "pitch value" stats used by Fangraphs. In short:

The Pitch Type Linear Weights ("Pitch Values") section on FanGraphs attempts to answer the question, "Which pitch is a pitcher’s best weapon?"  The changes in run expectancy between an 0-0 count and a 0-1 or 1-0 count are obviously very small, but when added up over the course of the season, you can get an idea of which pitch typically yields good results to a pitcher. If one pitch is hit especially hard or a pitcher can’t locate one pitch for a strike, these problems will show up using Pitch Type Linear Weights.  Also, if a pitcher gets lots of strikes and outs with a specific pitch, this success will show up.

Also keep in mind:

...[Pitch value] has limited predictive power. They can show you what pitches a pitcher has had success with in the past, but you should be careful in extrapolating those results and projecting the future. It’s a descriptive statistic, not a predictive one.

The stats we will working with here are "runs above average" (e.g. wFB) and "runs above average per 100 pitches" (e.g. wFB/C). With that out of the way, let's begin.

Fastballs:

Dajafi did a great job of summing up Roy Oswalt's dominant 10-start stretch after being acquired by the Phillies in July. Over that 70.2 inning stretch, Oswalt posted a 1.40 ERA and racked up 65 strikeouts against just 17 walks as opponents could manage a line of just .174/.229/.282 against him. Naturally, this streak of dominance was reflected in the value of Oswalt's pitches. Indeed, Oswalt posted the best wFB/C on the team at 1.55. Perhaps more impressive is that in just 82.2 innings with the team, his fastball was worth 10.1 runs above average, good for second on the team behind Cole Hamels's 12.1. Of course, Hamels had 120 innings more than Oswalt to reach that number. Oswalt's fastball dominance shouldn't really come as a surprise. Over his career he has thrown the pitch nearly 65 percent of the time and it has been worth a total of 133.6 runs above average and .75 per 100 pitches. Ryan Madson featured the second best fastball on the team with a wFB/C of .99 and Brad Lidge featured the worst with a wFB/C of -2.08. Oh, and Cliff Lee's fastball? It was worth 26.4 runs above average and 1.43 per 100.

Cutters:

Roy Halladay owned the best cutter on the team and it wasn't even close, really. At 18.1 wCT and 1.50 wCT/C, the pitch, which he threw 34.2 percent of the time, ranked first and fourth in the league by these respective measurements. Interestingly, Joe Blanton's cutter was his best pitch in 2010 at 1.38 wCT/C, but considering he only threw it 6.5 percent of the time, this could be attributed to the relatively small sample size. What about the oft-maligned cutters of Ryan Madson and Cole Hamels? Well, for Madson it was actually a slightly above-average pitch (wCT/C of .31, wCT of .5) and for Hamels it was slightly below-average (wCT/C of -.14, wCT of -.7). 

Splitters, curveballs, and changeups (oh my!) after the jump.

Splitters:

Being the only regular to throw a splitter with any frequency, Jose Contreras "led" the team with a wSF/C of -.94. See! You can win by losing.

Curveballs:

The best curveball among Phillies with a large enough sample of the pitch so as the be meaningful also belonged to Roy Halladay. It is perhaps the ultimate testament to the well-roundedness of his repertoire that Halladay was the only pitcher in baseball to feature four pitches worth more than 6 runs above average. Between both of his teams in 2010, our other Roy came close, but his slider fell .3 runs short. Halladay's curve was worth an impressive wCB/C of 1.49 for a wCB of 8.9. Oswalt, meanwhile, showed a fascinating change in approach after being traded to the Phillies. As an Astro, he threw his curveball 16 percent of the time, but after joining the the Phillies, he altered his approach significantly, throwing the curve only 12.5 percent of the time. Curiously, the pitch went from well above average as an Astro, at 2.40 wCB/C, to exactly average as a Phille, at 0.00 wCB/C. On the season, however, his curveball was worth 1.60 wCB/C, just edging out Halladay. Joe Blanton and Cole Hamels also featured above-average curveballs at .84 and .43 respectively. 

Sliders:

Often it is the case that an increase in the use of a pitch brings a decline in the effectiveness of that pitch. That Brad Lidge was able to throw his slider a career-high 60.2 percent of the time and still maintain a wSL/C of 3.21, then, speaks to just how strong the pitch has been for him. Since his first season in 2003, his slider has been worth a staggering 90 runs above average--third best in baseball over that span. Jose Contreras's slider amassed 8.2 runs above average at a rate of 2.78 per 100 pitches and Roy Oswalt lead regular members of the rotation with a wSL/C of 1.50. But coming straight out of the "small sample size department" is this: the best slider on the team belonged to none other than Phillie-for-26-innings Nelson Figueroa with a 3.63 wSL/C mark. More impressive yet, in those 26 innings, he managed to total 5.2 runs above average with the pitch.

Changeups:

When I mentioned in my Kyle Kendrick post that the Phillies' pitching staff features some of the best changeups in the game, I wasn't aware just how true that statement was. In all, eight Phillies regulars had good results with their changeups. Among them were the usual suspects like Hamels (1.22 wCH/C) and Madson (2.82) as well as some surprises like Romero (1.35) and Durbin (1.89). 2010 also saw Halladay develop a new level of comfort and effectiveness with his changeup (1.50). He threw the pitch a career-high 11.5 percent of the time last year compared to a previous career-high of 6 percent in 2007. Even Roy Oswalt got in on the changeup action. Before coming to the Phillies he was throwing the pitch 11.7 percent of the time, having never thrown it more than 7 percent for a full season. As a Phillie, he came to rely on the pitch even more, throwing it 20.6 percent of the time. You certainly can't argue with the results, either: 4.07 wCH/C, 10.1 wCH. With the addition of Cliff Lee, moreover, the Phillies welcome one more ace who enjoyed great success with his changeup in 2010 (1.98 wCH/C, 5.4 wCH) to their band of changeup specialists.

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