Made You Miss: Best Whiff Rates of 2010

(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

So basically, I love whiffs.  (That pretty much goes without saying for those of you who've been reading my work here at BtB.)  This post will be dedicated entirely to the whiff, as I will present the pitches that garnered the highest whiff rates (misses per swing) in 2010.  First, a few notes:

  • I'll start by presenting two different top-25 lists - one for pitches that had between 100 and 249 swings, and another for pitches that had at least 250 swings.  There are 586 pitch types for the 100-249 bucket and 406 for the 250+ bucket. 
  • These classifications are a mix of my own and Gameday's.  I've classified pitches for many of the pitchers appearing on these leaderboards, though there are still some that are pretty rough.  As an example, Shaun Marcum's changeup, which you will see somewhere on these lists, is a big group that contains sinking, cutting, and extra-slow variants (and hopefully not too many cutters mis-classified as changeups).   
  • Even if I've gone game-by-game on a pitcher, there's always going to be a degree of uncertainty and subjectivity regarding classifications; this is particularly evident in four-seam/two-seam distinctions.
  • These data include pitches against both lefty and righty batters, though I admit that it would have been really nice to have split it up by batter-handedness.  I don't have splits available for the whole league, but I can do lookups on specific pitchers.
  • The league average whiff rate in 2010 was .208. 

So, without any further ado, here are your best whiff rates of 2010.

 250+ SWINGS
Rank Pitcher Pitch Type Whiff Rate
1 Cole Hamels Changeup .480
2 Carlos Marmol Slider .465
3 Clay Buchholz Changeup .462
4 Francisco Liriano Slider .448
5 Brandon Morrow Slider .444
6 Kris Medlen Changeup .441
7 Shaun Marcum Changeup .438
8 Clayton Kershaw Slider .437
9 Craig Stammen Slider .434
10 Tim Lincecum Changeup .428
11 Roy Halladay Curveball .427
12 Jorge De La Rosa Splitter .414
13 Ervin Santana Slider .413
14 Mat Latos Slider .410
15 Luke Gregerson Slider .407
16 CC Sabathia Slider .405
17 Edwin Jackson Slider .401
18 Felix Hernandez Changeup .396
19 Hisanori Takahashi Changeup .393
20 Manny Parra Splitter .386
21 Ian Kennedy Changeup .385
22 Ryan Dempster Slider .378
23 Adam Wainwright Curveball .377
24 Zack Greinke Slider .376
25 Jaime Garcia Slider .375

                                                                                                100-249 SWINGS
Rank Pitcher Pitch Type Whiff Rate
1 Jonny Venters Slider .656
2 Ryan Madson Changeup .645
3 Stephen Strasburg Changeup .538
4 Sergio Romo Slider .516
5 Joel Hanrahan Slider .510
6 Billy Wagner Slider .507
7 Edinson Volquez Changeup .483
8 Chan Ho Park Slider .478
9 Manny Parra Curveball .475
10 Peter Moylan Slider .473
11 Huston Street Slider .464
12 Clay Hensley Curveball .463
13 Bill Bray Slider .462
14 Jhoulys Chacin Slider .462
15 John Ely Changeup .462
16 Jonathan Papelbon Splitter .457
17 Todd Coffey Slider .455
18 Joel Peralta Changeup .449
19 Esmerling Vasquez Changeup .449
20 Ricky Romero Curveball .445
21 Tony Sipp Slider .442
22 Will Ohman Slider .441
23 Carlos Villanueva Slider .441
24 Joaquin Benoit Changeup .439
25 Jaime Garica Changeup .437

Unsurprisingly, just about everything here is off-speed - a handful of curves, but mostly sliders and changeups/splitters.  Takashi Saito's four-seamer sneaks onto the first list.  Using the 250 swing cutoff, the chart below shows the ten best fastball whiff rates from last year:

Rank Pitcher Pitch Type Whiff Rate
1 Takashi Saito Four-seam .374
2 Matt Thornton Four-seam .320
3 Tyler Clippard Four-seam .318
4 Octavio Dotel Four-seam .300
5 Hong-Chih Kuo Four-seam .299
6 Jonny Venters Sinker .293
7 Jason Motte Four-seam .277
8 John Axford Four-seam .276
9 Rafael Betancourt Four-seam .272
10 Billy Wagner Four-seam .261

In case you were wondering, the pitches at the bottom of the lists are all fastballs, mostly two-seamers.  Livan Hernandez's two-seamer, Lucas French's four-seamer, and Joe Blanton's two-seamer sit at the bottom of the list with whiff rates of .055, .066, and .067 respectively.  The first non-fastballs to appear are Mark Buehrle's cutter (.096), Mitch Talbot's cutter (.121), and Rodrigo Lopez's slider (.140). 

The data in this post are courtesy of Joe Lefkowitz's PITCHf/x tool. 

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