Here in this corner of the internet, we love to analyze baseball. Numbers, graphs, charts. I do too, for sure. A good old chart can really get me going. As I have gotten older, though, the aesthetics of the game have come more and more to the forefront of my enjoyment. The things that my eyes like to watch rather than the things my brain likes to understand.
I have long maintained (in my head) that the most aesthetically beautiful play in baseball is the perfectly-executed relay from the outfield to home plate. There’s something smooth about a throw hitting the relay man in the right spot and the relay man catching the ball in the perfect position to minimize movement in the transfer of the ball from glove to hand to air. I’ve always loved crow hops. The ball hitting the glove right where the glove is being held. All great things to watch.
I love the relay throw, but it just doesn’t happen a ton. My favorite thing to watch, something that happens a bit more frequently, is the front-hip sinker. You know, the pitch a right-handed pitcher* throws to a left-handed hitter and it looks like it’s going to whack the batter in the hip only to tail back over the inside corner of the plate for a strike. Something that goes a little bit like this:
Brady Singer, Cruel 95mph Front Door Two Seamer. pic.twitter.com/DkWKyK25Qk— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 25, 2022
Oooh. Aaaah. My knees buckle just watching the pitch. The arm action, the release, the movement, it’s all just so liquid-smooth. It’s like watching a river change direction over a thousand years compressed into two seconds.
*I do not subscribe to the left-handed pitcher throwing a front-hip sinker to the right-handed batter because decades of dumb camera views have biased me against left-handed pitchers, aesthetically. Send your complaints to the broadcasts please. I will not take questions.
I am still a human who likes numbers, so I was curious: who throws my favorite pitch the most? Who is the best at it? Whom should I accept as my new deity? The first dude who comes to mind is Aaron Nola, but we have the data. We can objectively (subjectively) measure these things!
I went to MLB Savant and searched for this specific scenario - right-handed pitcher, left-handed batter, sinker/two-seamer, called strike on the inside part of the plate (zones 3,6,9,13,16,19), 2022 only. I wanted to capture those pitches that tail just enough back over the plate to get a called strike. The kind of pitch that gets batters worried about their hips. (diagram below from catcher perspective).
Gueeessss whhhaaaatttt????!!!! My dude Brady Singer leads the pack. Singer threw 64 such pitches in 2022, Logan Webb 53, Miles Mikolas 41, and so on, etc., etc. As a percentage of his total pitches, Singer was at 2.7%, which ranked second behind reliever Kendall Graveman at 2.8%. Singer throws this pitch a lot! This is good for me and my eyes.
Obviously, since I limited my search to called strikes, all the pitches are equally good. I must expand my search to figure out who is the best at it. I expanded my search to include all pitch results, whether ball or strike or swing, and STILL Brady Singer leads the pack with 156 such pitches, 6.6% of his total. Logan Webb is the closest at 114, Alex Cobb at 94, and so on. That 6.6% ranks fourth behind, well, three guys I had to look up to see who they were.
I’d say, in 2022, Brady Singer threw my favorite pitch the most. That’s pretty cool.
As far as results, Singer gets decent-ish results compared to the pack, but with room for improvement! I limited the list of guys to those who had at least 25 such pitches to weed out the non-believers. Singer’s overall run value was -0.6, which was about average. His wOBA allowed was .293, but his Statcast xwOBA was .240. The difference ranked 14th of 49 guys. There was a similar story with BA allowed, OBP allowed, and SLG allowed. Statcast expected all of them to be lower. Maybe some regression will help out Singer here; some of his expected metrics were closer to Logan Webb’s actual metrics on the pitch, and Webb just popped a 4 WAR season. Webb’s got a dang changeup though.
Anyway. Maybe Singer’s not the best guy at throwing my favorite pitch. But you know what? I do not care. He throws it a lot, so he indulges me the most. And baseball is all about indulging me, the fan, and giving me what I want. And this, this right here, is what I want.