The best pitches of each Pittsburgh Pirates starter

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Sep 8, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher

Jeff Locke

(49) pitches during the fourth inning of a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Pirates defeated the Phillies 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It almost seems like a foregone conclusion that Vance Worley will take the number five spot in the rotation.  I’ll talk about him in a second, but let’s see what Jeff Locke can bring to the position if he concentrates on using his changeup effectively:

O-Swing % O-contact % SwStr% Ground ball rate Fly Ball Rate
50.60% 55.40% 22.70% 51.30% 22.60%

Very good numbers across the board.  No one is going to confuse Jeff Locke for Greg Maddux, but without dominating velocity, it is vitally important for Locke to use pinpoint accuracy, and get batters to chase.  His changeup affords him this opportunity.  For Locke to have sustained success, he will need to keep his control at all costs.  Let’s contrast his numbers with Vance Worley.

Feb 19, 2015; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Vance Worley (46) pitches during Thursday afternoon s workout at Pirate City. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Vance Worley is widely seen as another feather in the cap of the Searage Rejuvenation Engine, and rightfully so.  Worley’s career was on life support until the came to PNC Park and hooked up with arguably the best pitching coach in the majors.  His 2014 success (which includes one of only two shutouts by the Bucs’ staff) seemed to guarantee him a spot in the rotation for 2015.  But was it all smoke and mirrors?  I had a hard time finding a pitch of Worley’s that stood out above others but I eventually settled on his slider.

O-Swing % O-contact % SwStr% Ground ball rate Fly Ball Rate
39.10% 70% 2.90% 53.80% 26.90%

The Vanimal’s slider was chased at a good rate, but was also contacted a startling 70% of the time.  It’s quite unfortunate that when Worley did get batters to leave the zone, they ended up making good contact anyway, factoring in to hitters only missing at 2.9% of his sliders.  He does keep it on the ground fairly well, but there will always be a gamble involved here because he just does not make hitters miss with this pitch.  The other pitches in his arsenal show a similar profile, but this one is chased a bit more.  I personally have beaten the drum of Worley over Locke, but after seeing this data, I am not quite sure I can maintain that stance.

With Ray Searage leading the way, the Pittsburgh Pirates have slowly built one of the best rotations in the National League, if not all of baseball.  I have full faith that Ray and Clint will continue to put these guys in position to be highly effective, provided that they play to their strengths:  their best pitches.

Next week, we will dip into the Shark Tank and take a look at the best pitches from Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, John Holdzkom, and more.