A Series: Emerging Pitches For 2020 Part 4 - Sliders
For the fourth article of this series, we will be talking about sliders. Sliders can be a very fun pitch to watch but is also a very lethal tool for pitchers. If you would like to see parts one, two, and three of this series you can check them out here, here, and here.
Another article and another pitch Elieser Hernandez is featured in! But his slider is so legit and it’s just a matter of command. Hernandez’s slider was unlucky last year and still posted amazing results. Hitters struggled with it having a .152 batting average against and 47 wRC+ against. When hitters did make contact it wasn’t substantial as he had a 72.9 Weak% which was fifth among all sliders. What’s best is his expected stats show improvement coming. His .234 wOBA came with a .206 xwOBA and his .305 wOBAcon came with a .300 xwOBAcon (both better than average).
While this pitch creates weak contact it certainly provides a nice swing and miss pitch for Hernandez. In 2019 it had a 17.7 SwStr% and most months that number was over 20.0%. The only thing he needs to do is bring down his Zone% of 49.8 and increase his O-Swing% of 27.4 by throwing it outside of the zone more. Pair this pitch with his four-seam fastball that should hopefully be improved in 2020 and we have a nice value pick in drafts here.
Max Fried just so happens to be my favorite sleeper pick this year! His slider is legit and certainly up and coming. Fried had a really good last few months of baseball and the reason was that he upped his slider usage. By month here are his usage percentages 7%, 13%, 18%, 19%, 18%, and 22%. Fried used this pitch really well, it provided a 6.4 pVAL and he was able to fool hitters by mixing it with his curveball and fastball.
In 2019 this slider put up some pretty stellar stats. Its 3.6 Barrel% was 12th among all sliders in the league. Hitters only had a .200 batting average against it as well as a .323 xwOBAcon. Besides the weak contact, his slider produces it also hits on every level you want a pitch to hit, it had a 40.9 O-Swing%, 42.0 Zone%, and 15.3 SwStr%. Fried is in for a big 2020.
Griffin Canning is a popular sleeper pick for 2020 and while some people are worried about his elbow I’m not going to let that stop me from drafting a pitcher with his skill set. Canning’s slider was awesome last year and it looks as if it was a little unlucky. It’s .236 batting average against came with an expected average of .209. The pitch also had a high BABIP and better-expected stats when it came to xwOBA and xwOBAcon.
Even though it deemed unlucky last year it was still a great pitch. It had an SwStr% of 21.8 which was 9th in the league for sliders. When hitters did make contact they struggled to make quality contact as it produced a 2.7 Barrel% which was good for fifth in the league for sliders. Canning paints the corners really well and often with this pitch. Pair an improved slider with his awesome curveball and Canning can have two of the better breaking pitches in the league. I’m buying everywhere I can.