The Best Pitches in the Tampa Bay Rays Staff

The Tampa Bay Rays have some really interesting pitchers on their big league staff; so much so that I’ve developed something of an obsession with the team. They create some of the best and asthetically-pleasing pitch movement The Rays’ pitching development, headed by pitching coach Kyle Snyder, seems to have a firm grasp on effective pitching strategy in regards to their arsenal and pitch ecosystems.

For this assessment, the Tampa arms have to had thrown at least 20 innings along with a 20%+ usage rate for each pitch type in 2019. FanGraphs’ linear pitch weights (normalized to 100 pitches) hold the higher priority in this evaluation while also considering Pitch Info’s plate discipline (Z-Contact%, O-Swing% and SwStr%) and wOBA.

All of the preceding data comes from FanGraphs and/or Brooks Baseball while the pitch design images are created using BaseballCloud‘s BallR tool.

FOUR-SEAM FASTBALL

Tyler Glasnow
-3.58 wFA/C
-82% Zone contact
-21% Chase rate
-10% SwStr rate
-.261 wOBA

I’m expecting big things from Glasnow if he can stay healthy in 2020. His fastball is a plus-plus pitch, thrown with almost pure backspin (~12:00 spin direction) possessing an element of cut (about 87% Magnus/Spin efficiency) that creates a very straight pitch shape with a lot of rise and 97 MPH+ velocity.

Below is an image of how Glasnow designed his four-seamer:

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Emilio Pagan, Colin Poche, Blake Snell

TWO-SEAM/SINKER

Yonny Chirinos
-0.35 wSI/C
-90% Zone contact
-23% Chase rate
-6% SwStr rate
-.329 wOBA

Probably more a two-seamer than a sinker, Chirinos gets a ton of movement on this fastball variety. Like Glasnow, Chirinos throws the pitch with nearly perfect Magnus efficiency under a 2:00 spin direction. Chirinos generates above-average velocity (95 MPH) and spin rate (2287 RPM) on his fastball.

HONORABLE MENTION: ANDREW KITTREDGE

CUTTER

Ryan Yarbrough
-1.45 wFC/C
-90% Zone contact
-26% Chase rate
-6% SwStr rate
-.271 wOBA

Yarbrough wins this essentially by default as few of his teammates actually throw a cutter. More of a back spinner cutter (more rise than run) than a traditional cutter (less rise; little sweep/run), Yarbrough throws the pitch with 54% gyro spin (46% Magnus efficiency) under an 11:20 spin direction.

HONORABLE MENTION: none

SPLITTER

Oliver Drake
-1.43 wFS/C
-77% Zone contact
-36% Chase rate
-19% SwStr rate
-.227 wOBA

Is it actually a splitter? A split-change? A screwball? Regardless, most of you remember this pitch from 2019 that blew up on the internet last summer and created (in some cases) heated debates:

Whatever it is, it’s a great pitch; about 70% of the 12:10 spin direction is affected by Magnus force. Its long-form movement averages around 31″ of drop with close to 2″ of run.

HONORABLE MENTION: Chirinos

CHANGEUP

Ryan Yarbrough
-2.12 wCH/C
-81% Zone contact
-48% Chase rate
-18% SwStr rate
-.223 wOBA

A nearly 50% chase rate on any pitch is enough to be considered/contested as elite. The second appearance for Yarbrough is for his heavy fade changeup that has about 90% Magnus efficiency at a 2:30 spin direction.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jalen Beeks, Snell

SLIDER

Nick Anderson
-4.65 wSL/C
-73% Zone contact
-38% Chase rate
-25% SwStr rate
-.165 wOBA

By far the highest-rated (best?) pitch of this group, the 30-year-old Anderson had a breakout year in 2019 using something of a hybrid type of slider (very little sweep and rise) and four-seam fastball.

Anderson made adjustments to the pitch several times last year, averaging a 10:40 spin direction with just over 70% gryo spin (30-ish% spin efficiency). Its a pretty straight pitch when looking at the slider’s short-form movement chart, relying almost purely on gravity for its drop.

HONORABLE MENTION: Diego Castillo, Chaz Roe

 

CURVEBALL

Charlie Morton
-2.12 wCU/C
-83% Zone contact
-42% Chase rate
-17% SwStr rate
-.185 wOBA

Morton, like Anderson, had a major breakout in 2019; his 6.1 WAR nearly eclipsed his combined WAR from the previous three seasons (6.4). His curve falls somewhere between the classic (equal parts sweep and depth) and slurve variety (more sweep than depth). With nearly perfect Magnus efficiency, Morton throws his curve around 8:00 and creates, at times, pretty stunning movement.

HONORABLE MENTION: Glasnow, Snell