Major league batters are very good at hitting fastballs. They aren’t very good at hitting fastballs thrown by Astros pitchers. The Astros held batters to a .225 average on four-seam fastballs, the lowest rate in the majors. They also held batters to the lowest OBP and lowest wOBA on four-seam fastballs. If you include all fastballs, including two-seamers, the Astros rank first in lowest slugging percentage and lowest wOBA allowed. In fact, the four remaining playoff teams all rank among the top five in lowest wOBA allowed on fastballs.nfl cheap jerseys nike
As a staff, the Astros had the second-highest average four-seam fastball velocity at 94.8 mph, as well as the highest average spin rate. The Astros have constructed an entire staff of Tom Seavers. No wonder it’s one of the best team-pitching seasons we’ve ever seen. Houston’s ERA+ (adjusted ERA) of 130 — 30 percent better than league average — ranks sixth best in the divisional era, since 1969. (Last year’s Cleveland Indians staff actually ranks first at 138.) Via FanGraphs WAR, Houston’s staff ranks second since 1969 to the 2017 Indians and tied for third in adjusted ERA.
In one sense, modern analytics merely confirm age-old baseball theories with new data and specifics. The smart teams, however, find the best ways to apply that data and make their players better.
So how did the Astros turn a so-so reliever on a bad team into one of the best relievers going? They noticed the spin rate on his curveball. Studies show that a high spin rate on breaking balls leads to more effective results. Among pitchers with at least 50 innings, Pressly’s average spin rate on his curveball ranks second in the majors, behind Garrett Richards.
With the Twins this season, Pressly threw his curveball 24.4 percent of the time; with the Astros, he has thrown it 36.9 percent of the time (while throwing fewer of his mid-90s fastballs and maintaining a similar rate with his slider). Batters are 2-for-34 against the curveball since he joined the Astros.nfl nike jerseys for cheap
“They’ve reiterated that my curveball’s probably one of the best in the league, so you should be able to use it more,” Pressley told The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan in September.
Cole has been a talented pitcher since the Pirates selected him first overall in 2011. He finished fourth in the 2015 National League Cy Young voting, but he had stagnated in Pittsburgh and had a 4.06 ERA in 2017. The Astros acquired him in the offseason — and promptly changed his approach.
The Pirates aren’t averse to analytics; heck, Travis Sawchik wrote an excellent book titled “Big Data Baseball” that outlined how analytics helped the Pirates end a 20-year streak of losing seasons and make the playoffs three seasons in a row. The Pirates, however, had a different philosophy: They linked two-seam fastballs and ground balls.