To say the least, Orioles reliever Félix Bautista has a devastating split-finger fastball. It would dive down in the zone under the bats of many hitters as a huge swing-and-miss pitch and played very well with a fastball that averaged 99.2 mph. His split averaged 88.5 mph.
It was not only among the very best splitters thrown by any pitcher in the game, but that pitch, which has the facts to back it up, was among the very best individual pitches thrown by anyone during the 2022 season.
What a year Bautista had and to put it further into perspective, his first minor league season was 2013. Not until 2021 did he even make it to Double-A, where he pitched 13 1/3 innings. He would add 18 1/3 Triple-A innings. So he made the O’s roster last season with a total of 31 2/3 innings in his life above A-ball.
Then for the Orioles, he went 4-4 with a 2.19 ERA and 15 saves in 17 chances. Over 65 2/3 innings he allowed just 38 hits and produced an 0.929 WHIP. He gave up just 5.2 hits per nine and 1.0 homers with 3.2 walks and 12.1 strikeouts. Lefty batters had a .523 OPS against him and right-handers were at .541. He had a 9.1 walk percentage and 34.8 strikeout percentage. At home his ERA was 2.58, and on the road it was 1.65.
So yeah, pretty strong from start to finish by almost any measure.
In his first save chance after the Jorge López trade, Aug. 8 versus Pittsburgh, he saved a 1-0 win. He threw 17 fastballs, and all 17 were 100 mph or more. Five were at 101 plus, and one pitch registered 102 mph. Remarkable.
He ranked sixth-most in MLB with 203 pitches thrown at 100 mph or more.
But it was the splitter that was an even more dominant pitch, set up so well by the blazing fastball.
Bautista’s whiff rate (when a batter offers at a pitch but misses it completely) was 53.3 percent on the split. That is 53 whiffs for every 100 swings at the pitch. Among every pitcher throwing 50 or more splits last year, only Cleveland’s Trevor Stephan at 54.0 had a higher whiff rate with the splitter.
Bautista’s stunning rate exceeded that of Shohei Ohtani (48.8), Kevin Gausman (44.5) and Yu Darvish (39.7) to mention a few that throw a darn fine splitter.
Bautista also led the majors in batting average against splitters at .087, which was also the fourth-best batting average against any pitch from any pitcher. He ranked first in slugging on the pitch at .185 and first in expected slugging at .139, which was fifth-best by any pitcher with any pitch.
And while his slugging percentage against was .342 off his fastball and .476 against his slider it was so much better versus the split.
His splitter was clearly among the best pitches in the game last year. And by the way along with a blazing fastball and the at times completely dominant split, Bautista got a 42.2 whiff rate on his slider in 2022. While the slugging against it shows me made some mistakes with that pitch last season, it is another weapon in the bag for him.
But the split is a complete standout, by almost any standard.