If I told you that the best single pitch the Chicago Cubs acquired last Summer wasn’t Jake Arrieta’s slider/cutter (slutter), you’d wonder if I meant that it was Arrieta’s curveball or four-seamer.
To be sure, Arrieta is an all-universe stud, and, within the context of him being a starting pitcher who has to try and last 100 pitches in a given start, he may well have the best pitch(es) in that deal.
But, to have a little fun with you, let me offer that the actual best pitch in that deal belonged to Pedro Strop. That would be his slider, which was the most dominant breaking pitch by any reliever in baseball this season (based on whiffs/swing rate, according to Baseball Prospectus – and I believe you can extend that out to all pitchers and the story is still the same). If you follow me on Twitter during games, you may have already known that Strop’s slider is insanely good, since I swoon every time he makes some chump look silly with it.
But you may not have known – I certainly didn’t – that 63.3% of the time an opponent swung at a Strop slider this year, he came up empty. To put that striking figure into context, Arrieta’s slutter produced whiffs just about 25% of the time. Clayton Kershaw’s curveball was around 38%.
To be sure, the effectiveness of a pitch isn’t entirely predicated on whiffs (though that’s the best outcome), and you’re not always trying to get a whiff, even with your best pitch, especially if you’re a starter. Further, with Strop, we’re talking solely about when a batter actually swings at the pitch – and if it’s not commanded properly, it won’t generate a swing at all.
So there are plenty of caveats to the claim that “Pedro Strop had the best breaking pitch in baseball this year,” but it’s not outlandish. Even when you factor those things in, consider that, in at bats that ended in a Pedro Strop slider, just 7.1% were walks. And 58.6%(!!1!!lol!!!) were strikeouts. The slash line against his slider in 2014? .088/.162/.110. That’s just stupid. Batters of the world: if you’re savvy enough to recognize a Strop slider is coming, just don’t swing at all. You’re not likely to walk, but you’re far more likely to do that than anything else good.
Overall this year, Strop posted a 2.21 ERA, 2.66 FIP, and 2.82 xFIP over 61 innings. That’s a better ERA than Hector Rondon and a virtually identical xFIP. The FIP is virtually identical to Neil Ramirez, and the xFIP is better. Rondon and Ramirez were freaks of awesomeness this year, so make sure you give the same credit to Strop.
As a Super Two player last year, Strop, 29, has three more years of arbitration coming his way. He made $1.325 million in 2014, and figures to be around $2 to $2.5 million in 2015. Given what he was in 2014, you’ll gladly take that.