Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Braves’ Best and Worst Pitches of 2012


While it hasn’t been the best of seasons for the Braves pitching staff, I thought I’d look at the best and worst pitches on the staff.  I will be using Pitch Linear Weights, a metric that uses run expectancy values of every pitch thrown to measure how effective a pitch is.  Both run totals and run rates (runs per 100 pitches) will be part of the evaluation.

Best 4-Seamers – Brandon Beachy (+13.4, +1.87 per 100), Craig Kimbrel (+11.9, +2.84 per 100)

Unsurprisingly we see the two best pitchers this year as the two with the best fastballs.  Captain Obvious here with Kimbrel, who throws 96-98 with a devastating breaking ball I’ll get to later.  Beachy showed how effective an average fastball can be.  Sitting around 90-92 with minimal movement, he was able to spot up well enough to keep the ball off the barrel and in the ballpark.

Worst 4-Seamers – Tommy Hanson (-17.1, -1.36 per 100), Jair Jurrjens (-8.0,-2.23 per 100)

And now we see the worst pitcher and another struggling starter.  Hanson has been dropping velocity for a couple years now, now around 88-91.  The worst part is the lack of control, throwing it for a strike about 60% of the time, compared to 65%+ in previous years.  Jurrjens’ fastball is the epitome of his season, allowing a lot of line drives and homers.  At 87-90, he can’t get away with marginal command anymore.

Best 2-Seam/Sinkers – Tim Hudson (+6.7, +0.68 per 100), Eric O’Flaherty (+4.7, +1.53 per 100)

Hudson has long been known for his sinker, though it’s nowhere near the +25 value in 2010.  O’Flaherty does not have the depth on his two-seamer that Huddy has, but he has been able to induce 72% groundballs on the pitch this year.

Worst 2-Seam/Sinker – Jonny Venters (-5.7, -1.25 per 100)

Hitters may have finally figured out that if the ball starts below the waist against Venters, it’s dropping out of the zone.  His value has changed solely based on batted ball rates, mainly a .380 BABIP and 36% HR/FB%.

Best Sliders/Cutters – Hanson (+11.1, +1.71 per 100), Beachy (+4.9, +2.02 per 100)

The only pitch working for Hanson, the slider has lost a lot of velocity, down about three ticks from a couple years ago.  However, he’s been able to keep it in the park and tough to square up, making it a great pitch.  While Beachy’s slider wasn’t the wipeout pitch it was last year, it was still tough to square up and a good groundball pitch.  Cristhian Martinez gets an honorable mention, though I think it’s his third-best pitch.

Worst Slider/Cutter – Jurrjens (-2.6, -2.15 per 100)

As expected, a slider with curveball velocity isn’t very effective.  The .458 BABIP against says a lot about the lack of movement.

Best Changeups/Splitters – Kris Medlen (+10.6, +4.33 per 100), Randall Delgado (+3.7, +1.13 per 100)

Possibly the closest thing to Greg Maddux I’ve seen, Medlen uses the front-door two-seamer and great change on lefties to dominate.  An average of .093 would also suffice as an explanation.  When I first saw Delgado last year, his stuff, especially the changeup, reminded me of a young Jurrjens.  He got 40% whiffs on the pitch, a tremendous number.  Paul Maholm has flashed a good change since coming to Atlanta.

Worst Changeup/Splitter – Jurrjens (-3.3, -1.26 per 100)

Okay, we get it…

Best Curveballs – Kimbrel (+8.7, +3.9 per 100), Medlen (+6.9, +3.24 per 100)

Kimbrel has the anti-Jurrjens breaking ball, a curve at slider speed.  It’s amazing that he can get more depth on an 85-87 MPH pitch than an average pitcher can get on a 77 MPH curveball.  Hitters have swung at the pitch more often when it’s out of the zone than in it.  They also have a 52.5% contact rate on it, an off-the-charts number.  Medlen also throws a bit of a tweener breaking ball, 77-80 that he effectively buries at the back feet of lefties.  Ben Sheets has also regained his pre-surgery curveball success.

Worst Curveballs – Delgado (-8.3, -3.82 per 100), Hanson (-5.8, -1.62 per 100)

Delgado’s main deficiency with the pitch has been his tendency to hang it, allowing four homers on spinners.  It has poor depth for a pitch at 77-79.  Hanson has seen a similar loss of velocity on the curve, now averaging around 72-74.  It has induced the most grounders of any of his pitches, but a .457 BABIP against leaves it well below average.

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