Following Joe Nathan’s injury this past March, Mark Simon introduced a stat which he labeled “putaway rate.” He defined it as “the percentage of two-strike plate appearances that ended in strikeouts.”
Taking his idea a step further, we set out to determine who has the best “putaway pitch.” It’s the same concept, but narrows down the stat to a specific pitch. For example, if a pitcher threw 100 two-strike fastballs and recorded 25 strikeouts on those pitches, his “putaway rate” would be 25 percent.
We applied this measurement to fastballs, curves, sliders and changeups, using data for this season from Inside Edge. Since each pitcher uses his pitches at varying rates, we considered the top 100 pitchers who had thrown the most two-strike fastballs and the top 50 for the three off-speed pitches. While there’s certainly some amount of subjectivity in that cutoff, it essentially gives us a list of the players who actually use that particular pitch as a “putaway pitch.”
So here are the top “putaway pitches” through May 24
1. Yovani Gallardo – Putaway Rate: 25.0 pct
Gallardo’s fastball is somewhat of a mystery. His speed (92.6) is only slightly above average for two-strike fastballs. His chase percentage (19.4 percent) is well below the league average of 31.7 percent. And his strike percentage (64.9) is also below the average of 66.7. Yet, he has thrown 148 two-strike fastballs, 37 of which have resulted in strikeouts.
2. Brandon Morrow – 22.6 pct
It’s been a rough season for Morrow, but the 25-year-old is currently tied for the league lead, averaging 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings. His two-strike fastball, which averages 94.6 mph, has induced whiffs on 26.8 pct of the pitches swung at – a rate which trails only Ryan Dempster’s 27.0 pct.
3. Josh Johnson – 20.6 pct
When Johnson works his way into a two-strike count, he prefers pure heat to finish the job. 40 of his 63 strikeouts this season have been recorded via the fastball, which averages 94.7 mph.
Best of the rest: Cole Hamels (20.4), Ryan Dempster (20.2), Dan Haren (19.9) and Ubaldo Jimenez (19.7)
1. Tommy Hanson – 39.5 pct
Based on our criteria, Hanson’s curveball rates as the best strikeout pitch in the game this season. Of hitters who have offered at his two-strike curve, less than half have made contact (47.8 pct).
2. Clay Hensley – 33.3 pct
Hensley is one of three relievers who makes our list. His curve, which comes in at just 72.0 mph (league average: 76.8) has been used to record 19 of his 32 strikeouts this season.
3. Ricky Romero – 31.0 pct
Romero isn’t afraid to throw his curve across the plate (55.2 strike pct) because it’s nearly unhittable. Hitters have missed 50.0 pct of their swings against his two-strike curve.
Best of the rest: Jason Bulger (28.3 pct), Gavin Floyd (28.0 pct), Gio Gonzalez (27.8 pct) and Ricky Nolasco (25.5 pct)
1. Brandon Morrow – 34.6 pct
Morrow makes his second appearance on the list, this time with his slider. He’s used his slider to record 28 of 59 strikeouts this season. He throws it for a strike 79.0 pct of the time, and induces a swing and miss 40.0 pct of the time (5th best rate in the majors).
2. Matt Garza – 33.8 pct
Garza boasts one of the league’s fastest sliders, which averages 86.3 mph in two-strike counts. He’s recorded 36 of his 54 strikeouts this season with his slider.
3. Luke Gregerson – 33.8 pct
The key to Gregerson’s slider is his ability to get hitters to chase it out of the zone. He’s induced swings on a league-high 67.5 pct of the sliders he’s thrown out of the strike zone on two-strike counts. He’s used his slider to record an astounding 24 of his 26 strikeouts this season (92.3 pct).
Best of the rest: Carlos Marmol (32.7), Francisco Liriano (31.6 pct), Edwin Jackson (30.4 pct) and Justin Masterson (27.9 pct)
1. Leo Nunez – 36.4 pct
Nunez, whose fastball clocks in at 93.5 mph, takes a full seven mph off on his change (86.5 mph). While changeup is a fairly uncommon “putaway pitch” it’s Nunez’s go-to selection. He’s recorded 16 of his 20 strikeouts with the changeup.
2. Ricky Romero – 36.0 pct
Ricky Romero joins his teammate Brandon Morrow as the only two pitchers to appear in the top three with two different pitches. Hitters have whiffed on a league-high 50.9 pct of their swings on his two-strike changeups.
3. Cole Hamels – 34.2 pct
Hamels may have the most deadly putaway pitch combo, as his changeup rates 3rd and his fastball 4th. His success likely comes from a drastic 10 mph difference between the pitches – 91.3 mph on fastballs, 81.6 mph on changeups.
Best of the rest: John Ely (33.3), James Shields (32.7), Jorge De La Rosa (31.4) and Francisco Rodriguez (30.8)
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