A Series: Emerging Pitches For 2020 Part 1 - Curveballs
For the next few articles, I will be digging deep trying to find emerging pitches. This first one will be curveballs and I plan on discussing two-seam fastballs, four-seam fastballs, sliders, and changeups as well. I will also be linking each of the past articles for each one! I hope you enjoy this little series I have put together!
What Goes Up Must Come Down
Since the 19th century, there has been a popular phrase “what goes up must come down.” Essentially stating that due to gravity, whether its jumping or throwing a rock into the air it will eventually come back to earth. It is nearly a 200-year-old saying that has been written in books for generations. Weirdly enough I always think this when I see an awesome 12 to 6 curveball in baseball. If you can picture it, I am sitting on my comfy couch and when a pitcher throws a curveball I say this to myself under my breath as my wife is watching from afar thinking I am a lunatic. Below are three curveballs that I think have the potential to take the next step and could develop into becoming really good pitches.
Steven Matz was a tale of two halves in 2019 as his ERA went from 4.89 to 3.52. Not only that but his FIP and K-BB% were also significantly better. What Matz did was increase his slider usage and honestly, it wasn’t that great of a pitch. What he did do though was change his curveball which went from a pedestrian pitch to a pretty good one.
As I previously mentioned Matz’s curveball started to break more in the second half, its horizontal movement went from -6.34 to -7.48. His curveball dropped over an inch more and the results clearly show how big that was for him. The batting average against went from .250 to .163, while the Barrel% went from 7.8% to 0.0%. Both significant changes but the biggest change might be from the wOBA and ISO. In the first half, the pitch had a wOBA of .353 and ISO of .309. In the second half, its wOBA shifted to .185 and it’s ISO to a whopping .023. If Matz can keep the increased horizontal movement his curveball should be much better next year.
We all know I love me some Max Fried! In the second half of 2019 Fried decided to bring in that slider more and it lead to major improvements. The curveball was still his second most used pitch and deservedly so because it’s a thing of beauty. His curveball has an insane horizontal movement of -12.3, as you can see in the gif above it is a true 6 to 12 changeup. It was a great pitch last year as it posted a 35.6 O-Swing%, 37.6 Zone%, and 15.4 SwStr%. It also produced a .115 ISO, 55 wRC+, and 1.2 Barrel% overall. For 2020 it could be even better!
This pitch was unlucky last year if you take a glance into its expected stats. It had a .212 batting average against (BAA) with an expected .173 BAA. It also had a .327 SLG versus a .235 xSLG and a .408 wOBAcon versus a .332 xwOBAcon. If he keeps rolling with his four-seam fastball, curveball, and slider Max Fried should see a break out in 2020.
I have started talking about Spencer Turnbull when it comes to the 2020 season. The reason being is he has a good slider and I see potential in his curveball, the main caveat might be the defense behind him. Turnbull’s curveball looks okay from a statistical standpoint with a 33.5 O-Swing%, 31.4 Zone%, and 12.1 SwStr%. You want to see all of those numbers a little higher but with a great horizontal movement of -8.3 and some corrected control issues, we could see this pitch take the next step.
Just like Max Fried, his curveball was pretty unlucky in 2019. It came with .273 BAA versus a .199 xBA, and that batting average also came with a super inflated .413 BABIP. The .455 SLG came with a .284 xSLG and the .483 wOBAcon came with a .370 xwOBAcon. As you can see it looks like a lot of positive regression is coming for this pitch. It is also backed with a solid 2.1 Barrel% and a great location of hitting the lower left part of the plate. Turnbull is going very late in drafts and will probably be left on the wire in a lot of leagues but make sure you keep an eye on him.
Personally, I think there is nothing better than seeing a nice curveball. It is easily my favorite pitch to watch and I think the three pitchers above could be developing their pitch. It is probably why I like Max Fried so much because his curveball is beautiful to watch. As always thank you for reading and please reach out with any questions!