Boston’s Best Tools 2012: Best Off Speed Pitch

In general, a pitcher makes his living with his fastball. Without a Major League fastball, a pitcher needs to either a) throw a knuckle ball or b) find another line of work. However, no pitcher can survive throwing nothing but fastballs. Even Daniel Bard, who throws somewhere in the range of a million light years per second, needs a secondary pitch. Pitchers need to disrupt the hitter’s timing and keep him from sitting on that blazing fastball.

To do this, pitchers have created a plethora of strange and wonderful offerings- the curveball, the slider, the change up, the knuckle curve, the circle change, the slurve, the screwball, the eephus, the gyro-ball, the split finger, and should all else fail, the spit ball. All of these pitches are as unique as snowflakes, but they have one thing in common. These pitches all exist to make hitter’s swing wildly as the ball dips, dives, or hangs just out of reach.

Boston pitchers have a pretty wide range of secondary pitches and there are no shortages of good candidates for the best off-speed pitch award. As per usual, you will find an eye popping array of data after the leap, all aimed at helping you pick the best off-speed pitch. This time, however, that data is extremely open to interpretation. You can consider things like pitch value (by linear weights), or whiff rate or even the differential between the average pitch in each category and a particular offering, but in the end, this one is truly a matter of taste. Fortunately, your 2012 Boston Red Sox have something for everyone.

2009-2011 Best Off-Speed Pitch Data

% Thrown

Velocity

Speed Diff

wValue

wValue/C

X-Dif

Z-Dif

Whiff Rate

Daniel Bard's Slider

20.90%

84.1

13.60

15.60

2.40

5.47

-2.07

17.10%

Melancon's Curve

26.60%

83

9.80

10.20

2.28

-3.50

-3.10

17.90%

Alfredo Aceves Change

12.90%

83.4

7.90

9.90

2.40

0.60

-1.40

15.00%

Andrew Bailey's Curve

13.90%

85.4

8.50

5.80

1.56

0.20

0.30

12.00%

Clay Buchholz's Change

19.60%

81.1

12.30

4.30

0.38

3.70

2.47

22.70%

Lester's Curve

13.70%

77

15.70

4.20

0.31

-0.60

-0.10

12.50%

Beckett's Curve

20.60%

77.1

16.70

0.90

0.05

1.90

-1.00

11.70%

If you like your beer cold, your television loud and your off speed pitches SLOOOW, you might like Josh Beckett’s curve, which is a full 16.70 mph slower than his average fast ball. Is Whiff rate important to you? I’ve got a Buchholz change up over here that misses 22% of the bats that swing at it. But you? You look to me like a guy that needs to really use his off-speed stuff. You might want to think about Mark Melancon’s curve ball. You throw that thing 25-26% of time, no worries. If value is your thing, I got a Daniel Bard slider and an Alfredo Aceves change up that will give save 2.40 runs per 100 pitches thrown. You won’t find better value than that.

Yes, Boston pitchers throw some impressive secondary pitches. I am looking at three years of data here to eliminate small sample size issues, but even so, these pitches are thrown just a quarter of the time at the most. In fact, I did not include two pitches here that would rank quite high by weighted value because they are not thrown over 10% of the time- Josh Beckett’s change has had a value of 7.6 runs above average and Jon Lester’s change comes in at 7.9. Both pitchers use these pitches primarily to opposite handed hitters. The two change ups that are included here are both used over 10% of the time and thrown to hitters on both sides of the plate. Even so, Aceves change up is the least used pitch here. It is possible that it is slightly overrated here because of that, but it is still a very strong contender.

My OTM colleagues all had different takes on this one. Marc Normandin is a whiff rate guy and he likes Buchholz’s change up. Brendan O’Toole picked Josh Beckett’s change up, citing its long track record of nastiness. That track record includes two seasons where his curve was worth 11+ runs above average, so Brendan certainly has a point. Ben Buchanan went with Daniel Bard’s slider, the pitch that has been the most effective over the past three years.

I am also going to stick with my pick from last year and go with Buchholz’s change up. I still support what I said back then –

"Change ups typically rely so much on the speed difference, but Buchholz’s has that AND major drop off. He throws it with almost as much frequency as Bard’s slider and to both LH and RH batters. It is also the easiest pitch for me to close my eyes and visualize."

Even after a season where Buchholz did not pitch after June, his change up is easy to remember. It has splitter-like drop and an excellent speed differential from his fast ball, it makes more people swing and miss than any other pitch here, including Bard’s crazy breaking slider. But hey, that’s just me. You need to find the right off-speed pitch for you.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Over the Monster

You must be a member of Over the Monster to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Over the Monster. You should read them.

Join Over the Monster

You must be a member of Over the Monster to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Over the Monster. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker