The best pitches in the Yankee bullpen

Open Thread: Spring Training Broadcasts
2012 Preseason Not Top 30 Prospects
(Mo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty; Soriano by Gregory Shamus/Getty; D-Rob by Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Several of you asked for a bullpen version of the “best pitches in the rotation” post, and so here you go. Instead of just the 2011 season I’ve gone back and corralled the last two seasons worth of data for this post. The columns headed by “w” and “w/100″ are the pitch type’s linear weights (representing the total runs that a pitcher has saved using that pitch) and linear weights per 100 pitches (the amount of runs that pitcher saved with that pitch type for every 100 thrown), which provide some level of insight into a pitch’s relative level of effectiveness but should not be analyzed in isolation, as they are subject to the whims of both sequencing and BABIP. I’ve ranked the hurlers by their respective Whiff rates, as the ability to generate a swing-and-miss is probably the most transparent indication of pure stuff.

(Note: This post was researched and written prior to the release of the reclassified PITCHf/x data at Brooks Baseball — which I’ll be chiming in on next weekand the numbers are from and Fangraphs. Given that relievers typically have less variation in their repertoires than starters, I feel comfortable that the data presented below is mostly accurate.)


Rafael Soriano‘s generated the highest whiff percentage on the four-seamer out of the six primary members of the Yankee bullpen, though that is probably partially propped up by his excellent 2010. As far as pitch type linear weights go, David Robertson‘s four-seamer has been the most effective at 12 runs above average, while Cory Wade’s was most effective on a per-100-pitch basis, at 2.17 runs above average.


Without looking at the numbers I’d have assumed that Mariano Rivera would easily lead in cutter Whiff%, but he actually lags both Soriano and D-Rob. Of course, having even an 8.1% whiff rate on a pitch you throw 86% of the time is still absurd.


For all the crap Boone Logan gets, his slider’s actually pretty outstanding, generating a whiff nearly one out of every four times he throws it. Joba Chamberlain also has a big-boy slider, though at times (cough cough full count cough) he’s fallen a bit too in love with it, occasionally making it painfully predictable.


David Robertson has the best curveball in the ‘pen by a pretty substantial margin, though Cory Wade’s isn’t terrible. Joba’s had a decent amount of success with his curve though he throws it pretty infrequently.


It’s Cory Wade by a landslide here, though he wins by default as no one else in the ‘pen really throws a changeup. It hasn’t been an outstanding pitch by linear weights, but it was his bread-and-butter in a terrific season for the Yankees in 2011.

Open Thread: Spring Training Broadcasts
2012 Preseason Not Top 30 Prospects
  • BrianH

    Is this information available for select minor leaguers? Id like to see a profile done on the next wave a pitching talent thru the tubes

    • Bavarian Yankee

      I know this is OT but does somebody know where to find a current scouting report about Kenley Jansen from the Dodgers? I’ve read somewhere on BaseballHQ that he has a Mariano-like cutter and his 16.1 K/9 from last season is pretty impressive.

      @Larry: it would be fun to add the best pitcher in MLB in each category to the list. I don’t want you to redo this but maybe that’s something you wanna do in the future.

      • Larry Koestler

        Hey Bavarian,

        Thanks for the suggestion — I’d love to do that, although as far as I know there still isn’t a way to sort these specific categories of data by qualified players.

        The closest thing we have is at Fangraphs, which lets you sort by pitch frequency, velocity, etc., but not by pitch type whiff%.

  • LaserVortex

    Mariano who?

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    I appreciate the effort to keep the blog providing information but my mind is fixed on the trade of AJ. Its at the point of no return IMHO. If he does not get traded than his presence will be negative even if he’s not negative in daily routines on the field. How will he pitch knowing the mindset of the Yankees was to salary dump him. He’s 34-36 after 3 years with the Yankees full support and energy behind him.

    I can not believe his agents words that AJ will not be affected by the rumors of a trade.

    • Larry Koestler

      We hear ya, Larry M., and not to worry — Mike’s got something on A.J. coming up shortly.

    • Fernando

      Agreed. I think the Yankees have to bite the bullet here and forget about squeezing a few extra million from the Pirates. Let’s be honest, the Pirates are not going to budge here. This is an organization that just went to an arbitration hearing with Garrett Jones over 25K (asked 250K and team offered 225K). They didn’t budge on 25K, they ain;t budging on an extra 3 million. Let’s just get a two C prospects, plus $10 million and move on.

  • Dropped Third

    Wade has a pretty good arsenal of pitches, was he ever a starter?

    • Larry Koestler

      Looks like the Dodgers tried him out as a starter after they drafted him, but after posting an 8.24 ERA/5.84 FIP across 7 starts (39.1 innings) at High A in 2006, he only made eight more career minor league starts spread out over several seasons, and has never made a start at the Major League level.

      • Dropped Third

        Thanks for he feedback Larry, much appreciated.

        • Larry Koestler

          It’s my pleasure.

  • Miles

    Interesting, but it might be helpful to include ground ball rates in the analysis. Batters make a great deal of contact with Mo’s cutter, but it usually results in weak groundballs.

  • Dick Gozinya


    I love the deep analytical approach to your posts. Always very informative. Keep up the great work, its much appreciated.

    • Larry Koestler

      Thanks Dick! I greatly appreciate the appreciation.

  • Theo

    You guys at RAB do a fantastic job!!!