Looking at most leader boards on statistic sites, you cannot find a Yankee starting pitcher anywhere. They are not present in any of the big categories like FIP, ERA+, WAR or pretty much anything else. Yankee starters are deemed serviceable but not able to go long into games and at least most of the time, give the very good offense a chance to win the game. So imagine the glee of sorts to find a Yankee starter on top of one of a big-time writer's lists--Keith Law's list..
In a post last week, Keith Law ranked pitchers with the best pitches in various categories. For example, Law ranked Clayton Kershaw's curve as the best in baseball. Well, duh. Then we get to the split-fingered fastball and sitting on top of Law's list is Nathan Eovaldi!
This is remarkable for a couple of reasons. First, Nathan Eovaldi did not have a split-fingered fastball before 2015. It's a brand new baby of a pitch. Secondly...it's Nathan Eovaldi. But is Keith Law correct?
I decided to look up the numbers on PitchF/X which keeps track of such things. The first thing I noticed is that only 26 MLB starters use the pitch. Compare that to the 85 starters that throw a curve as an example. This is a little like me having the best fried chicken in town when there are only two chicken dives.
But still, of all qualified starters, Nathan Eovaldi's splitter has been worth 8.9 runs above average this season good for first place. Law doesn't mention whether he used these stats to compile his lists or scouting. Either way, in this case, he is correct in that Eovaldi's splitter is highest among qualifying starters in total value. The key word here is, "Qaulifying."
Eovaldi has a teammate who hasn't pitched enough innings to be considered a qualifying starter. He is, of course, Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka's split-fingered fastball has been worth 10.2 runs above average. That would put Tanaka on top, qualified or not.
There is another way of looking at this statistic and that is the value of the pitch per a hundred thrown. In other words you take the total thrown and divide that into the total value and multiply that figure by 100. This changes our view a bit because all pitchers who throw a splitter do not throw them as often.
When viewed this way, the winner is Chris Sale, but Sale doesn't throw the pitch nearly as often (maybe he should). Eovaldi comes in fifth when looked at this way. He throws the splitter 14+% of the time. Tanaka comes in sixth and throws it 24+% of the time. Tanaka throws it more, but Eovaldi comes out ahead of him on the value per pitch.
I would say that Keith Law's rating, if based on statistics, would only be correct from one point of view. The bottom line is that Nathan Eovaldi has added a weapon and it has been a good one for him. The pitch has been a bit transforming and could really aid in his Eovolution.
Just to give you an idea of how far he has Eovolved this season, in April, May and June, Eovaldi pitched 82.1 innings and gave up 105 hits. Yeesh. In July and August, Eovaldi has pitched 46.2 innings and has given up 49 hits. That is much better. His batting average against has gone down every month this season.
And the pitch is very important because his other pitches all rate below average except for the two-seam fastball which is slightly above average.
All I know is that earlier in the season, I cringed at the prospect of an Eovaldi start. Now, I sort of look forward to them. I am looking forward to watching him today as the Yankees attempt to sweep the Twins!