Blue Jays standouts in FanGraphs new Pitching+ stats
FanGraphs recently debuted a new set of pitching stats on their site that aim to measure pitcher performance in a way that has yet to be done. They posted a full explanation of these stats on their site, but here's what you need to know. Pitching+, Stuff+ and Location+ all look at different parts of a pitcher's performance and attempt to isolate it from factors out of their control in order to give an accurate depiction of how effective they really are.
Pitching+ uses "physical characteristics, location, and count to try and judge the overall quality of the pitcher's process", while Stuff+ focuses just on the physical characteristics, and Location+ focuses on the placement of the pitch. They have also isolated single pitch types using these same criteria to create stats like Fastball+, Slider+, etc. Like other + stats such as wRC+ or ERA+, 100 is the league average, with the higher the number being better (150 means they're 50% better than average). These new stats have helped give a lot of insight into major league pitchers, and provide an interesting look at some of the Toronto Blue Jays' arms in particular. Here are some of the standouts.
As a high strikeout, low walk, and low home run pitcher, stats like FIP love Kevin Gausman, as he led the league in that area in 2022. Some of those same principles apply to Pitching+, as he sat second among qualified starters in the stat last season at 109, behind only Yankees starter Gerrit Cole.
His Location+ of 107 was third best in MLB, while his Stuff+ of 109 was 12th, as he and AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander were the only pitchers to be at 107 or higher in both categories. His 115 Splitter+ only reinforced something most Jays fans already knew, that it's one of baseball's most effective pitches, with only five pitches having higher ratings among starters. His Fastball+ was also among the best in baseball, sitting at 109, which was behind only Gerrit Cole and Yu Darvish. With the velocity, movement, and control that Gausman has on his pitches, it's unsurprising that he's ranked so high in these areas, and it's a quantitative way of showing how good his stuff is, which is something stats like ERA can't do.
You might expect Cy Young finalist Alek Manoah to dominate in some of these stats, but he actually sits right around average. With a Pitching+ of exactly 100, and both his Stuff+ and Location+ sitting at 99, this is a perfect example of how advanced metrics like these don't always provide an accurate representation of players. His average velocity and movement on all pitches (except for his wipeout slider) make it tough for stats like this to measure his effectiveness, but that doesn't make him any worse in reality. Manoah may not stand out in these stats, but he's an important reminder that advanced stats don't tell the whole story.
Some other starter numbers of note include Yusei Kikuchi, who had a Stuff+ of 107, which was right around Zac Gallen and Aaron Nola. His Location+ of 94 helps show where he struggled last season, but his ability to get good speed and movement on his pitches is a sign of potential. Despite a trainwreck of a season, José Berríos ended up with a 102 Pitching+, which could help the argument that 2022 was just a fluke. New Blue Jay Chris Bassitt was a similar case to Alek Manoah, sitting with a 98 Stuff+ and 102 Location+, but again, these stats aren't the best representation of who he is.
Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano had a Stuff+ of 132 in 2022, which ranked 12th among all pitchers in MLB with at least 40 innings pitched. This seems like a pretty good representation of the hard-throwing righty, with a lot of his effectiveness coming from great velocity and solid movement on his fastball and slider. His 99 Location+ also makes sense, since if there is an area of concern in his process it's a susceptibility to leaving balls in hittable places.
This one might seem a bit surprising, but Adam Cimber had the team's best Fastball+ at 112, which was tied with Yimi García for sixth in MLB among pitchers with at least 60 innings pitched, right behind Jacob DeGrom and the same as Gerrit Cole. This is almost certainly due to how Cimber's fastball is essentially only a fastball in grip and name, and acts differently than any other pitcher's, making it a statistical outlier. For García, he's always had a good-looking fastball that never jumped off of stat sheets, so seeing his fastball show up this high on this list is interesting.
While he only pitched 15 innings last season, offseason acquisition Chad Green pitched over 80 innings in 2021 and was a Pitching+ standout. His 130 Stuff+ was fourth among pitchers with at least 80 innings, his 115 Pitching+ was second behind only Jacob deGrom, his 118 Fastball+ was also second, and his Location+ was 16th. In his 15 innings in 2022, his stats were right around there again, so this could be a very encouraging sign for when he eventually joins the team later in the season.
With these stats being very new, this will be the first season where we can fully see how well they reflect a pitcher's actual performance. It may not be a perfect tool, as shown with Alek Manoah, but another way to quantify pitcher performance is always interesting and certainly something to watch for in 2023.