A look at O's pitch usage/mix from 2022

We are getting into the weeds a bit here today, digging into some pitching numbers that might be interesting to look at and note. Maybe they actually tell us something about Orioles pitching as well.

First, in the simplest terms, O’s pitchers, as a staff, threw fewer fastballs and changeups in 2022 compared to 2021. They threw more sliders and cutters and a similar number of curveballs.

In 2021, the Orioles used fastballs (four- and two-seamers combined) 51.0 percent, and that dropped to 47.3 this year. Their average fastball velocity increased, however, from 93.0 mph in 2021, which ranked 22nd in the major leagues, to 93.8 mph this season, tying them for 12th in the bigs. Some of the flamethrowers in the bullpen, no doubt, helped increase that average.

In 2021, the Orioles led the majors in throwing changeups, doing so 15.7 percent of the time. This season that percentage dropped to 13.3, which was still sixth-highest in baseball. That means the O’s still really like changeups.

In watching the team this year, there were nights I said to myself, ‘Hey, self, the O’s love the cutter.’ They used that pitch 5.2 percent of the time in ’21 (to rank 20th in the majors) and increased that this year to 8.4 percent (10th in baseball).

Baltimore’s slider usage increased from 16.1 percent in 2021 to 19.8 percent. That still only ranked as 19th in the majors.

Baltimore’s curveball usage, which was 11.3 in 2021, dropped a bit, to 10.1 in 2022.

So, to recap where the O’s ranked against other staffs in the majors this past year, they threw the sixth-most changeups, were 10th in cutter usage, tied for 12th in curveballs, 19th in sliders and 25th in fastballs. At a time when teams are continuing to throw fewer fastballs, the Orioles are very on board with that. The only teams throwing a lower percentage of fastballs than Baltimore at 47.3 were Tampa Bay (41.2), the Los Angeles Angels (43.9), Atlanta (46.0), Miami (46.5) and Cleveland (47.1).

We have to keep in mind that while we can come to some conclusions on this - as in the Orioles throw among the fewest fastballs, increased their cutters and still love changeups - that some of this, maybe a lot of it, is simply a function of the pitchers they have on staff. They have to play to their strengths and do. Rather than force a pitcher to throw more cutters or changeups, they have to use their best pitches to get outs. And then the math is what it is. 

Just for fun, and trying not to confuse myself with so many numbers, I wanted to see which individual pitches from Orioles hurlers were particularly effective. For that I used run value, a complex stat, to understand fully (and I don't), but easy to understand in that it is cumulative, like WAR, and a negative differential is better than a positive differential. That means that pitch is tougher to hit and to be productive against and score against.

This may surprise you a bit, but with a two-seam/sinker run value of minus-21 this season, O’s right-hander Dillon Tate ranked first in the majors. Opponents' slugging percentage off his sinker was just .260.

O’s reliever Félix Bautista had two pitches rating high. His split, of course, which produced a minus-6 run value to rank fifth in the big leagues. Slugging off that pitch was just .187. Bautista’s blazing four-seamer also scored high, with a run value of minus-14 to rank 15th in the majors, and opponents slugged .342 off it. Not that bad for the batters, considering the overall run value.

O’s right-hander Dean Kremer had minus-10 run value off his cutter to rank tied for eighth in the majors. Batters slugged .356 against that pitch.

For what it is worth, here are O’s pitchers with the best whiff rates on each pitch:

* Four-seam fastball – Bryan Baker at 27.3

* Two-seam fastball – Jordan Lyles at 15.4

* Changeup – Dillon Tate at 40.3

* Curveball – Dean Kremer at 31.4

* Cutter – Joey Krehbiel at 28.7

* Splitter – Felix Bautista at 52.9

* Slider – Dillon Tate at 35.1

More questions for the front office (updated)
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