Yesterday I showed you who had the worst five pitches in the majors in 2011 and now I will show you who had the best five pitches.
Those pitches, again, being the fastball, curveball, change-up, are measured using a Fangraphs stat that uses linear weights. Here is the explanation from my post yesterday:
Using linear weights, they come up with stats called wFB, wCH, wCB, wSL, and wCT. It gives you a number value, positive or negative, based on how well that pitcher did with that certain pitch. They take it one step further and added a value based on 100 pitches, or wFB/C, for instance.
The stat takes into account each and every pitch, pitch count, and result. So, while there may be some luck or un-luck involved, it is a pretty accurate take on how well that pitch faired during that one year. It is, though, not a great tool to use on a predictive basis due to the amount of luck on batted balls.
So, here are the best pitches and the pitchers who threw them:
Best Fastball: This was a lot closer than the worst fastball debate. Ian Kennedy had the highest wFB total of +28.7 and Cliff Lee finished right behind him in second place with a +27.0. Lee was ahead of Kennedy in wFB/C by coming in 2nd with a +1.49 with Kennedy finishing 3rd at +1.32. You could easily pick either to win the best fastball award of 2011 but I have to go with Lee for having the better clip per 100 pitches while coming in second in total wFB. Plus, he didn’t have the ridiculously good out field defense behind him like Kennedy did.
Best Change Up: This one was an easy pick as Cole Hamels led in both wCH and wCH/C. He posted a ridiculous +29.0 wCH with Felix Hernandez coming in a distant second at +21.4 wCH and a pair of Rays pitchers named James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson right behind Felix. Hamels’ wCH/C of +3.91 was also way ahead of Felix Hernandez who placed second there also.
Best Slider: This is another fairly close call but Clayton Kershaw led the way with a +22.9 wSL, a mere 0.9 ahead of Ervin Santana but his wSL/C was +2.60 to Santana’s +1.68. The potential National League Cy Young award winner gets the award for best slider of 2011.
Best Curveball: Continuing with the National League theme, and Philadelphia Phillies theme, Roy Halladay easily wins the best curveball of 2011. Halladay posted a +14.1 wCB and +2.39 wCB/C and both led the entire major leagues. Wandy Rodriguez was the only one close in wCB but no where near as good in wCB/C.
Best Cutter: Finally, an American League pitcher can claim an award for the best pitch. Dan Haren absolutely destroys the competition when it comes to the cutter. He posted an insanely good +30.5 wCT, beating second place Roy Halladay by 11 runs above average. His wCT/C of +1.62 was also third best.