This Maytag sponsored post examines which Pirates throw the filthiest pitches. I went with fastball, slider, curveball and changeup and didn't dig into, say, four-seamers versus two-seamers. I used FanGraphs pitch type linear weights to identify and highlight which of the Bucs' pitches were the nastiest. This is really just for fun, and it isn't meant to be scientific. There can be many reasons a particular pitch seems to produce value -- for example, if a pitcher uses a terrific fastball to set up his breaking pitch, his breaking pitch might produce better value as a result. This post, then, is just an excuse to celebrate some great pitches.
Fastball: Gerrit Cole (14.3 runs)
No surprise here. Just look at this thing. It's 98 MPH, and it breaks about two feet starting when it's about five feet from the plate.
In June, Grantland's Ben Lindbergh took an in-depth look at Cole's arsenal and that pitch in particular. Cole himself didn't see anything too noteworthy about the latter.
"I don’t know, it was just a four-seam fastball, and I just tried to throw up in the zone. … I’ve struck quite a few guys out on that pitch."
Cole now relies more heavily on that four-seamer than he did when he was a rookie, and his fastball has gradually become one of the best pitches in baseball -- according to FanGraphs, only Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn, Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir have produced more value with their fastballs this season.
Slider: Francisco Liriano (19.5 runs)
Liriano's slider has produced more value this season even than Cole's fastball, and only Tyson Ross and Chris Archer have produced more value with theirs.
It's not hard to see why this pitch is successful. It's extremely hard, and it produces a ton of strikeouts and ground balls. It's particularly brutal against lefties, which is one reason why, for example, lefties hit only .130/.175/.146 against Liriano in 2013, his first season with the Pirates. (Those numbers have since straightened themselves out a bit, but he's still very tough against them.) And it's probably the biggest reason why the Pirates' victory against the lefty-heavy Reds in the 2013 NL Wild Card game was never in much doubt.
Curveball: Joakim Soria (0.4 runs)
I cheated a bit here -- according to FanGraphs, the pitcher who's produced most value with his curveball for the Pirates this season is Jeff Locke, whose curveball is maybe a hint above average. The Pirates just don't have many big curveball pitchers right now. Soria, though, has produced only a bit less curveball value than Locke in just a few innings, and his curve is a ridiculously fun pitch. Watch what happens at 0:30.
When Soria joined the Pirates a couple weeks back, someone compared his curveball to the super-slow benders we used to see Jeff Karstens throw. When it works, it's brilliant. Nothing, short of an eephus pitch or a knuckleball, makes hitters look sillier when they swing and miss. It's funny -- Karstens has only been out of the league three years, and he seems like he came from a completely different era. The slow curveball seems to have fallen out of fashion, probably mostly because pitchers throw harder in general. The average curveball was 76.3 MPH just five years ago, compared to 77.9 MPH this season. There are more than a few guys who still throw slow curves (Jered Weaver and Mike Fiers, to name two), but Soria's curve still feels like a throwback.
Changeup: Tony Watson (5.3 runs)
Watson's changeup doesn't get nearly as much attention as Cole's fastball or Liriano's slider, and Watson's own fastball is probably an even more effective pitch than his changeup is. But this is still a very nifty pitch.
Watson's changeup gets a ton of movement -- you can see that pretty clearly in the video -- and comes in harder than some pitchers' fastballs. It's a big reason Watson is so dependable against righties.
As the official washer and dryer of MLB, Maytag brand is searching for the "Filthiest Plays of the Week." Starting August 3rd ball players of any level can upload a picture or video of their "filthy play" using #MyFilthiestPlay for a chance to win a trip to the World Series plus a Maytag brand Top Load Washer and Dryer pair. Baseball fans have the power to vote for their favorite filthy play each week at MLB.com/Maytag. Follow Maytag on Twitter and Instagram to stay up-to-date with the newest and filthiest plays.