Pittsburgh Pirates: Pitching Staff Has Mastered the Slider & Sweeper

Pittsburgh Pirates v Detroit Tigers
Pittsburgh Pirates v Detroit Tigers / Gregory Shamus/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff have mastered both the slider and sweeper with multiple pitchers ranking among the most effective slider/sweeper hurlers

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a handful of pitchers who are among the top of the leaderboards for the most effective sliders and sweepers in baseball right now. Between the two offerings, they have five pitchers who rank top 20 among the two offerings. It seems to be a kind of pitch the team has mastered this year.

It should be noted that all stats in this article are as of Sunday (June 4th) morning.

Between the two offerings, Jose Hernandez has the best pitch on a pitch-by-pitch basis with -5.3 run value per 100. Hernandez has used the pitch against 40 total batters, holding opponents to a mere .040 batting average, .075 slugging percentage, and .054 wOBA. He ranks top five in batting average, slugging percentage, and wOBA with his slider.

On the rare occasions that batters do make contact with the offering, they manage a 9.1% hard hit rate, the 4th best rate in baseball. Overall, he has -8 run value, which is really good considering he’s only thrown the pitch 149 times. There’s only one other pitcher who’s thrown a slider less than 150 times with a RV greater than -6, with that being Texas Rangers’ closer Will Smith.

The best overall slider in terms of run value is Roansy Contreras at -9. That makes his slider the fourth most valuable in baseball. Opponents have a rough time when Contreras throws his slider. Opposing batters are hitting just .181 with a .314 slugging percentage, and .229 wOBA. He hasn’t been nearly as overpowering as Hernandez, or the next pitcher we’ll look at, but there’s no doubt that Contreras has an elite slider. Now if he could only figure out his fastball...

The second most overpowering slider to Hernandez is Dauri Moreta’s breaking ball. With -8 run value, he also ranks top ten. Moreta’s slider is basically unhittable. He’s one of 19 pitchers with a slider whiff rate of 50% or greater at 50.9%. Opposing hitters own a batting average under .100 at .087 with a .109 slugging percentage, and .171 wOBA. 

Coming in at number ten on the slider run value leaderboard is Vince Velasquez. The veteran has a -7 RV with his slider, while holding opponents to a .192 average, .308 slugging percentage, and .238 wOBA. Although he has the lowest whiff rate among the pitchers we have mentioned so far, his 30.9% hard hit rate is well above average.

Now that we’ve talked about the dominant sliders on the Pirates’, let’s move on with the dominant sweepers, starting with Colin Holderman. Holderman has become one of baseball’s best set-up men with his sweeper playing a large role in his success. Even after his blow-up Saturday afternoon, Holderman still has a phenomenal .135 batting average, slugging percentage, and .137 wOBA with his sweeper. He also has a 40% whiff rate and 26.7% hard hit rate. 

The last offering we’ll look at is Yohan Ramirez’s sweeper. Ramirez might just have one of the most effective sweepers in baseball, as he’s held opponents to a .053 average, slugging percentage, and .110 wOBA. He ranks second in both batting average and slugging percentage, and is first in wOBA. He’s also just one of five pitchers with a sweeper with a 50%+ whiff rate. However, more impressively, he’s yet to allow a hard hit ball. 

The Pittsburgh Pirates have seemed to put the development of sliders and sweepers on the forefront. While these are the best of the best, both Mitch Keller, and Johan Oviedo have induced well above average results with their sweeper and slider, respectively, showing that there are multiple Pirates getting good results with their slider/sweeper.

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