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Which Pirate Hitter Hits Which Pitch Best?

I was working on a flat tax proposal and accidentally proved Adam Frazier is the best hitter on the Pirates. Photo by AP.

Last week, I took a look at which Pirates pitchers did the best with which pitch. Today, we’ll be looking at the other side of the coin: which batter hits which pitch the best?

To qualify for the two results categories, the batter must have had at least 10 plate appearances end on a given pitch in 2018. For the other categories, they need to have at least 30 swings against a certain pitch. I also excluded pitchers as batters. Deal with it.


Honestly, if you really wanted to, you could stop reading this post after this first category. The best hitter against each pitch, well, hit each pitch the best. I can ?t poke a hole in that theory, but I think there ?s more to the story than just that. There are more bites to this apple than just results, but this is the first– and largest– bite. Once again, we’ll be sorting these results through wOBA.

Fastball (League Average: .344)

Lonnie Chisenhall .495

Pablo Reyes .402

Francisco Cervelli .390

Changeup (.291)

Starling Marte .383

Elias Diaz .376

Jose Osuna/Adam Frazier .370

Slider (.263)

Adam Frazier .452

Corey Dickerson .431

Jacob Stallings .352

Curveball (.269)

Elias Diaz .416

Corey Dickerson .351

Gregory Polanco .333

If you want a two word summary on Lonnie Chisenhall, it ?s ?fastball hitter. ? Last year, 473 batters had at least 50 plate appearances end with a fastball, and Chisenhall ?s .495 wOBA was the best in baseball.

Reyes also hit fastballs well in his September cameo, but he outperformed his expected wOBA by over 80 points (.318). Speedy players often do better than their projections because they can beat out infield hits and stretch the occasional single into a double, but expect some regression to the mean if his batted ball profile stays the same.

Adam Frazier and Elias Diaz were the best on the Bucs against sliders and curveballs, respectively, and both cracked the top three vs. changeups. Expect to keep seeing their names in this post.

Expected Results

And now we venture into slightly nerdier waters with expected wOBA (xwOBA). Going based on their average exit velocity and launch angle, what ?should have ? each player hit against each pitch?

Fastball (League Average: .344)

Francisco Cervelli .408

Josh Bell .378

Lonnie Chisenhall .375

Changeup (.283)

Elias Diaz .384

Colin Moran .353

Adam Frazier .336

Slider (.254)

Pablo Reyes .388

Corey Dickerson .323

Starling Marte .320

Curveball (.255)

Elias Diaz .392

Corey Dickerson .323

Adam Frazier .282

Reyes ? xwOBA may have been a buzzkill for fastballs, but it ?s an eye opener against sliders. 526 batters had at least 10 PAs end on a slider last year, and Reyes ? .388 xwOBA ranked sixth. Of course this is over a small sample size, but he looked better against the pitch than his .231 batting average against it would indicate.

Chisenhall ?s expected wOBA against fastballs is significantly lower, but a .375 clip is still good enough to crack the top three. Frazier dropped off the slider list, as did Marte for changeups.

Making Contact

There ?s an episode of ?Malcolm in the Middle ? where the boys see their mom crushing baseballs in a batting cage. Malcolm asks his dad why he coached their little league team instead of her, to which he says, ?there ?s more to hitting than making contact, son. ?

While we ?re moving to a three true outcome league, we can ?t undersell the value of putting bat to ball. No good can come from a swing and a miss. Below are the lowest whiff percentage (based on swings taken, not total pitches) against each pitch.

Fastball (League Average: 19.2%)

Adam Frazier 12.2%

Jose Osuna 12.3%

Elias Diaz 13.5%

Changeup (31.1%)

Adam Frazier 17.2%

Elias Diaz 17.9%

Corey Dickerson 21.6%

Slider (35.5%)

Adam Frazier 15.7%

Colin Moran 22.8%

Corey Dickerson 28.1%

Curveball (32.6%)

Adam Frazier 23.9%

Elias Diaz 25.9%

Josh Bell 26.1%

All hail our contact overlord, Adam Frazier.

In fairness, Frazier ?s whiff percentage did go up once he was recalled in July (11.2% to 16.2%). He traded contact for power, but even if you took just his second half stats, he would still be second on the team in fastball and slider contact rate while holding onto first place against curveballs.

Dickerson cracked the top three for a couple pitches, which is a bit surprising since he had a very poor rate of ?.

Swings in the Zone

Granted, this might be the most superfluous category. Plenty of guys have made careers of being bad ball hitters, including Dickerson. Still, a swing in the strike zone is far more dangerous than one outside.

I went with the Gameday zones to see which batters chased the least.

Fastball (74.9%)

Elias Diaz 82.3%

Francisco Cervelli 82.1%

Jacob Stallings 81.6%

Changeup (60.9%)

Colin Moran 65.7%

Francisco Cervelli 64.5%

Adam Frazier 62.5%

Slider (62.5%)

Colin Moran 74%

Jose Osuna 73.6%

Adam Frazier 72.3%

Curveball (62.9%)

Adam Frazier 69.2%

Colin Moran 68%

Elias Diaz 67.2%

Moran may not have had that great a season at the plate last year, but he at least has the batting eye of a veteran, especially against offspeed and breaking pitches. Frazier isn ?t too far behind, also appearing on three sections. The catchers sweep the fastball section.

So Who Wins?

Same system as last week: a first place finish is worth three points, second place two and third place one. Here are the guys who finished with at least six points against a pitch:

9- Elias Diaz Curveball

7- Adam Frazier Slider/Curveball

6- Francisco Cervelli Fastball, Adam Frazier Changeup, Elias Diaz Changeup

Five of the top six spots are Elias Diaz or Adam Frazier. Just like we all expected. Now I ?m not saying Diaz and Frazier are the best hitters on the team, but if you would define ?best hitter ? as ?a guy who swings at good pitches, makes contact, strikes it hard and has it fall in for a hit regardless of what type of pitch it is, ? then they might be the best hitters on the team.

As for which hitter does the best against which pitch, I think this is another split decision. A case can be made for Chisenhall against the fastball since he hit the most commonly thrown pitch the best in baseball last season. If you ?re looking for the best results compared to what everyone else hits against that pitch, then it ?s probably Frazier against the slider since his wOBA is 189 points higher than the league average. If you ?re willing to settle for slightly worse– but still terrific– results for better peripherals, then it ?s Diaz against the curveball.

Alex is a Pirates and Duquesne basketball contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. He graduated from Point Park University with a degree in Journalism and Mass Comm. and a minor in English in 2014. Everything can be explained with numbers. If you want to keep up to date on both teams or have a story idea, you can follow or reach him @AlexJStumpf.