New Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Dauri Moreta’s sinker was his second most used pitch in 2022, but it gave him the most trouble last year. Should he drop the pitch?
The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Dauri Moreta earlier this month in exchange for Kevin Newman, and the first thing everyone jumped on Moreta for was His 5.40 ERA and home run rate over 2.0-per-9. While there’s no defending a 5.40 ERA, there’s plenty to suggest that he can make significant improvements in 2023. One of those improvements could be dropping his sinker entirely, but would this be the right move?
Opponents squared up Moreta’s sinker. With a 63.6% hard-hit rate and .551 wOBA, his sinker was one of the worst offerings in all of baseball. Per wOBA, it was the 19th worst pitch in 2022. It was also the 19th worst per hard hit rate. But while he struggled to use his sinker effectively, his fastball and slider were devastating pitches.
Moreta tossed his four-seamer 30.3% of the time, holding batters to a .190 average, a .333 slugging percentage, and a .280 wOBA. He only had a 26% whiff rate, but the underlying expected numbers supported his fastball’s effectiveness. His four-seamer came in with an xBA of .187, xSLG of .318, and xwOBA .289. His fastball was good, but his slider was even more impressive.
The right-hander threw his slider 24% of the time, but while opponents hit just under the Mendoza line against his fastball, they almost hit under .100 against his slider at .103. When they did make contact, it rarely went for extra bases, with a .207 slugging percentage. Between not allowing any hits nor any extra-base hits, Moreta had a .200 wOBA with his primary breaking pitch. A 48.9% whiff rate made it the 22nd hardest pitch to make contact with.
His changeup, while far from his best offering, was still one he could use with semi-regularity. While opponents managed a .212 average and .312 wOBA against it, they also had a .545 slugging percentage. Sure, he didn’t allow many hits with the off-speed pitch, but when he did, they went for extra bases more often than not.
So with how effective his fastball/slider combo was in 2022, should Moreta drop his sinker altogether? While his sinker has decent velocity, spin, and active spin, it doesn’t have much movement. Compared to the league average, the vertical movement is 38% below average, and the horizontal movement is 22% below average. He throws his four-seamer with similar velocity, and spin yet manages to get more movement on average.
Moreta’s fastball/slider/changeup trio was highly effective last season. He doesn’t need to throw his sinker, a pitch that obviously gave him a ton of trouble in 2022. At the very least, he shouldn’t be using it more often than his slider. If the Pittsburgh Pirates want Moreta to have a decent year in 2022, he should primarily rely on his fastball and slider rather than his fastball and sinker.