Astros: Each Pitcher’s Best Pitch (Part 1)

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 4: Starting pitcher Zack Greinke #21 of the Houston Astros during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Sahlen Field on June 4, 2021 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 4: Starting pitcher Zack Greinke #21 of the Houston Astros during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Sahlen Field on June 4, 2021 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images) /

The first in a three part series on each Houston Astros pitcher and their best pitch

After a big win in terms of the Houston Astros‘ overall stance in the AL West, Zack Greinke worked through seven innings, proving durability down the stretch. Kyle Tucker hit his first ever grand slam, which is all the team needed to beat the Los Angeles Angels. Greinke’s performance signaled to us, what is every pitcher’s best pitch?

Zack Greinke – Change Up

Once upon a time Zack Greinke’s fastball averaged 94 MPH and he used it for almost 50% of his pitches. That’s not the case these days for the 37 year old veteran, as over time Greinke’s pitch mix has shifted and his four-seamer now averages 88.9 MPH and the usage is at 39.6%.

More importantly batters are hitting .263 off the pitch and have bashed 11 home runs while slugging .473 in 205 at bats.

The good news is Greinke has developed an effective change up and it’s been his best pitch over the last several years.  This year batters are hitting only .168 on the change up and have only one home run in 125 at bats on the pitch he uses 22.2% of the time. With an average launch angle of -8 degrees it’s easy to understand the single home run and with a -9 run value (-1.9 RV/100) none of Greinke’s other pitches come close to being as effective.

Brooks Raley – Slider

Raley’s Statcast numbers are much better than his traditional statistics and this has caused angst among a segment of Astros fans.  The king of soft contact, Raley’s thrown an 82.1 MPH slider 23.3% of the time and induced an average exit velocity of 74.7 MPH, while holding batters to a .189 batting average with excellent Wiff% (50.7%) and PutAway% (34.5%) numbers.

Raley’s slider has a run value of -3, but more importantly -2.4 RV/100.

Jake Odorizzi – Split Finger

Most of the time choosing the pitcher’s pitch is simple and straightforward with the numbers jumping off the page at you.  As confounding as Odorizzi is on the mound he’s even more so numerically.

Odorizzi’s curveball has been fantastic this year, but he only uses it 3.7% of the time and in past years has been knocked all over and out of the park. His slider has held opponents to a .171 batting average, but has also given up three home runs in 35 at bats.

I’ve settled on the split finger which he throws 21.6% of the time and batters are hitting at a .197 clip.  Odorizzi has struggled with the long ball and this pitch has a -4 degree launch angle, so that’s another thing in its favor.

The run value is zero and -0.2RV/100, but hard hit % is 42 and other metrics suggest some regression is ahead.  Maybe try some more curves, Jake.

Cristian Javier – Slider

Sometimes more than one pitch jumps off the page at you and that’s the case with Javier, as both his slider and four-seam fastball have -8 run values.  Digging deeper into the underlying metrics clearly favors the slider, a pitch Javier hurls 26.8% of the time at an average of 81.3 MPH.  Batters have managed only a .114 average with an xwOBA of .137, Whiff% of 50.9 and a PutAway% of 30.9.  To cap it off, that run value of -8 translates to -2RV/100 for this pitch. Wow.

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Phil Maton – Curveball

Maton is another enigma wrapped in a riddle.  He’s got a couple of pitches (cutter and slider) with negative run values but horrible underlying metrics, and a couple with positive run values and pretty good underlying metrics.

Maton throws the curve 22.6% of the time and it has the worst run value of any of his pitches in 2021 at four or 2RV/100.  Why choose this pitch? The underlying metrics tell me he’s pitching in bad luck with the curve, with the batting average (.236) being 61 points above the xBA (.175) and slugging (.400) being 154 points above the xSLG (.246).  In addition the Whiff% of 45, K% of 41 and PutAway% of 27.4% on the pitch are good.  I would expect improved results on Maton’s curveball moving forward.

Next. Ronnie Dawson slightly increasing production. dark

The Astros are back in action on Saturday at 8:07 p.m. with Luis Garcia matching up against right-hander Jaime Barria. Yuli Gurriel is expected to be back in the lineup.