These pitches could be the next big thing in the upcoming season.

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These pitches could be all the rage next season

Every few years, there’s a recurring trend in baseball pitching, often bringing back old techniques in a new light. A decade ago, innovative teams like the Pirates gained an edge by employing low sinkers, causing batters to hit into strategically positioned defenses. The subsequent popularity of the high-spin, bat-missing high fastball, driven by advanced pitch-tracking technology, overshadowed sinker-reliant teams, pushing them out of favor.

Subsequently, the focus shifted to high-velocity sliders and cutters, with the latest addition being the sweeper, evident to those who watched baseball in 2023. However, as history has shown, pitchers stay ahead briefly before batters adapt, leading to the emergence of the next big thing.

These pitches could be the next big thing in the upcoming season.
These pitches could be the next big thing in the upcoming season. (Credits: MASN)

In the ongoing evolution, the sinker and splitter seem to be making a comeback. Examining the trends from 2023 provides insights into what might unfold in 2024.

1) The splitter, often including the rarely-seen forkball, is gaining prominence as the next significant pitch. Despite historically representing only a small percentage of pitches, the splitter’s effectiveness, as highlighted by run value, is noteworthy. Pitchers like Logan Gilbert, Joe Ryan, George Kirby, Robert Stephenson, and Shelby Miller increased their usage of the splitter in 2023, showcasing its growing popularity. Players like Kevin Gausman and Alex Cobb, experienced splitter practitioners, are relying on it more as a primary pitch. The increased adoption of splitters is supported by the belief that they are challenging for hitters to identify and barrel up.

The surge in splitter usage is attributed to various factors, including the pitch’s difficulty for hitters, its platoon-neutral nature, and the evolving understanding of how pitchers’ body movements correlate with pitch effectiveness. Notably, the trend is reinforced by the upcoming arrival of Japanese pitchers Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Shōta Imanaga, and Yuki Matsui in 2024, all known for their impressive splitters.

2) The sinker, once considered a fading pitch, experienced a resurgence in 2023. Contrary to the negative overall run value it held in previous years, the sinker provided a positive impact for pitchers in 2023. This change can be attributed to several factors:

A) Sinker velocity has increased at a faster rate than four-seamers, making them more challenging for hitters.
B) Pitchers are using sinkers in more favorable situations, avoiding opposite-handed hitters to enhance the pitch’s effectiveness.
C) Advances in pitch-tracking technology, specifically Hawk-Eye, have led to a better understanding of seam-shifted wake (SSW), enhancing sinker movement.

Players like Yennier Cano exemplify this trend, as his improved sinker contributed to a breakout season in 2023. While the resurgence of the sinker is not yet a league-wide trend, it’s gaining attention as pitchers strategically embrace it, realizing its potential in specific situations.

In summary, the ongoing narrative of pitching trends in baseball continues, with the splitter and sinker emerging as prominent themes for the upcoming season. As pitchers adapt and refine their arsenals, the competition between pitchers and hitters remains a dynamic and ever-evolving aspect of the game.


By Richard

All in one crazy for sports, especially baseball.

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