Jays From the Couch looks into the Blue Jays pitching staff to see which hurler tossed the best heat in 2018
The Toronto Blue Jays aren’t exactly known for having flame throwers. They have a few pitchers who can touch the high 90’s with their fastball, but they certainly can’t claim consistent heat like some other teams. While we wait for the Toronto-less postseason to end, there really isn’t much to chat about with regards to our favourite team. That’s why it could be fun to dive into the pitchers’ ‘stuff’.
Obviously, simply throwing heat is not all that goes into having an effective fastball. Location is key. Hitting 100+ on the radar gun doesn’t do you any good if you’re missing the strike zone. As well, movement is important. A straight fastball might as well be a slow one. Movement allows for deception. I pitcher who can do all of these things is absolutely lethal. But, how many of those does Toronto have? Off the top of the head, it might seem like slim pickin’s. Let’s take a look and see if we can find even one.
To do this, I took into account those who have tossed 20 innings. Now, Roberto Osuna only threw 15.1 innings for Toronto in 2018, but I’m gunsta include him. Likewise, I’m gunsta include Ken Giles since he’s the team’s closer and his nickname is 100 Miles Giles. Can’t talk about fastballs without including both of them. As well, it is important to remember that the number of pitches someone throws impacts the overall value of their offering. So, don’t take this as a scientific study, by any means.
To start, it is probably best to talk about who brings pure heat. Giles, for his part lives up to his nickname. Giles averaged an impressive 97.6 mph and hit 100 several times, where Osuna averaged 95.7 mph. Jake Petricka also averaged a 95 mph heater. The aging wonder, John Axford managed an average of 96 mph and Ryan Tepera also sat 95+. The remainder of the staff is made up of mid 90’s and lower.
What is interesting is that Seung Hwan Oh managed an average of 92.1 mph, but had one of the better fastballs on the team in 2018. According to Brooks Baseball, Oh’s fastball generates more swing and miss than others. He had success by keeping the pitch up in the zone while his other offerings were down.
By keeping the hitter’s eye looking low, you can catch them off guard with some high(er) heat. Oh used location, rather than overpowering heat. Compare that to a guy like Thomas Pannone and it looks even better. Pannone struggled and saw his fastball get rocked more and more as he faced more batters. And, you can see why:
If you’re going to leave your fastball in the middle of the zone, and you only throw it an average of 88.4 mph, you’re going to get rocked. Often. Pannone had difficulty with the pitch because it wasn’t thrown very hard and he threw it right down the middle, which is not a recipe for success.
Perhaps, the most definitive way to do this is to check Fangraphs wFB values for each pitcher. wFB measures weighted runs above average for each player’s good old Number 1.
|Aaron Sanchez||-3.0||Thomas Pannone||1.9|
|Marcus Stroman||-6.6||Jaime Garcia||-9.6|
|Marco Estrada||-10.9||Sam Gaviglio||-22.4|
|JA Happ||15.0||Sean Reid-Foley||-6.0|
|Ryan Borucki||-0.2||Joe Biagini||-8.3|
|Ken Giles||-4.4||Tyler Clippard||2.9|
|Ryan Tepera||1.5||Aaron Loup||-0.1|
|John Axford||2.4||SeungHwan Oh||6.3|
|Jake Petricka||-3.2||Danny Barnes||-2.4|
|Tim Mayza||1.6||Luis Santos||-6.1|
|Roberto Osuna||5.1||Shaun Doyle||-999|
According to the Fangraphs wFB values, Sam Gaviglio had the Blue Jays’ worst fastball in 2018. Check out his report card on Brooks Baseball: “His fourseam fastball comes in below hitting speed, has heavy sinking action, is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers and has slight armside run.”
Gaviglio tosses a “heater” that averages 88.5 mph and does not keep it out of the middle of the zone. Gaviglio relied on his fastball less than most pitchers, but when he did use it, he got hit hard. It is no wonder that it had a wFB value of -22.4.
But, the real point of these shenanigans is to find out who had the best fastball in 2018. That honour goes to J.A. Happ. His wFB mark of 15 was easily Toronto’s best. Happ used his #1 to carry him to his first All Star appearance. He averaged 92.7 mph, which is far from the club’s fastest. But, he used it the most out of any other pitch. According to Brooks: “His fourseam fastball generates a high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers, has slightly above average velo, has slightly less natural movement than typical and has some added backspin.”
Batters hit just .207 against Happ’s fastball. He averaged 2305 rpm on his heater as well. It is the backspin and the location that allowed Happ to enjoy success from his fastball. He loved to use the high heat to get swing and miss results. The image below shows his fastball usage location and frequency.
Whether the Blue Jays are serious about bringing Happ back in 2019 remains to be seen. They sure could use his fastball, though. Of the pitchers who are currently on the roster, Thomas Pannone and his 1.9 wFB value are tops. That doesn’t bode well for next season, since we’ve already talked about him getting hit hard. In fact, looking at the table above, there are a whole lot of guys who have negative values on their fastball. Read into that what you will, but a saying comes to mind: if you can’t throw a fastball, you can’t survive in the big leagues.
Featured Image Provided By DaveMe Images
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.