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Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Arsenal Changes: Pitch Mix, Velocity, and Movement (Week 8)

Welcome back to the weekly column, where we cover a few starting pitchers and their arsenal changes via pitch mix, velocity, and movement. We're at a point where the pitch movement, arsenal, and velocity should tell us a story with a handful of starts under their belts. With more injuries likely coming soon, we'll want to continue identifying streaming pitcher skills or struggling pitchers with underlying metrics suggesting better results coming soon.

After examining the changes for these starting pitchers in the early parts of the 2024 season, we'll summarize whether we should act or be patient with the data. Again, we have a small sample of 8-10 starts in 2024, so it could be legitimate or noisy by the end of the month.

Reach out to me on X if you have a pitcher you have questions about that may be included in a future article.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:


Chris Paddack is Throwing Fewer Four-Seamers

In the off-season, Paddack garnered some buzz with an ADP around pick 250, though the ATC Projections suggested being careful. Since Paddack hadn't thrown over 100 innings since 2021 due to recovering from injuries, projecting him and his arsenal seemed murky. In Paddack's most recent start, his four-seamer generated 11 whiffs.

That matched a career-high of whiffs on the four-seamer in a game, with the previous occurrences coming in 2019. Paddack has been throwing the four-seamer less often in 2024, with the season-long usage at 41.2 percent. That's 10 percentage points below 2022 and nearly 20 points lower than 2021. 

With the lower four-seamer usage, Paddack bumped the slider usage to 16.4 percent after only throwing 17 in the shortened seasons of 2022 and 2023 combined. Historically, Paddack's four-seamer and changeup highlighted the arsenal, with the curveball being a third offering. Throughout Paddack's career, the four-seam induced vertical break (IVB) fluctuated, with slight variations in vertical release points and extension, as seen below.

Paddack's slightly lower release point and better extension lead toward improved IVB. He typically flashed elite extension, allowing the four-seamer to perform well as he locates it up the zone. Interestingly, Paddack's four-seam elicits a career-best swinging-strike rate of 13.4 percent, over three percentage points above his career average. Besides the better vertical break on the four-seamer, the arm-side run adds to the intrigue. 

Paddack's four-seamer has been performing well against right-handed hitters, with a .269 wOBA compared to a career average of .332. Unfortunately, left-handed hitters continue to crush the fastball, evidenced by a .414 wOBA in 2024, a career-worst number. 


What About the Secondaries?

Paddack's changeup highlighted the arsenal as his best pitch for swings and misses, with a career 15.9 percent swinging-strike rate. However, that fell to 10 percent in 2024, while he finished every other season above 16 percent. So, why has the changeup regressed in results and whiffs? Part of it seems luck-based, with a .318 BABIP (2024) compared to a career rate of .256 for the changeup. Since the changeup possesses above-average drop and arm-side fade, it might related to the pitch location. 

In 2024, Paddack's changeup lands low and inside toward right-handed hitters 37.7 percent of the time (right outside the zone) while allowing a .199 wOBA. That's positive, but the problem involves when Paddack throws the changeup in the strike zone. In 2024, Paddack's changeup allows a .523 wOBA and a career-low 14.5 percent whiff rate when thrown in the zone. That's quite a difference compared to the career wOBA (.295) and whiff rate (21.7 percent) when Paddack throws the changeup in the strike zone. 

After seeing this data, it seems logical for Paddack to throw fewer changeups in the zone moving forward. In Paddack's previous start against the Mariners, he threw the changeup in the zone 45 percent of the time and tossed it in the zone 47 percent of the time in the zone against the Yankees (May 14). That aligns closely with the 2024 average of 42.6 percent. It's a fine line where he attempts to locate the changeup, but he can work with an above-average four-seamer and off-speed pitch.

We won't spend too much time on Paddack's slider because it's a mixed bag. Paddack's slider has a 14.3 percent swinging strike rate and below-average movement profiles. Given the movement profile, it's unsurprising to find Paddack's slider struggling against left-handed hitters (.441 wOBA) and righties (.398). That's problematic because we would expect a pitcher throwing a pitch more often to be a positive change to their profile.



Though Paddack's walk rate in 2024 (5.1 percent) aligns with the career average, his ball rate increased by two percentage points. Throughout Paddack's career, he posted a 32.8 percent ball rate compared to 34.6 percent in 2024. We appreciate the four-seamer movement profile and location being a quality offering with his elite extension, but we hope for more consistency via the changeup. The changeup location issue seems fixable, though using the slider more seems questionable. Hitters seem to know when the changeup is coming since they have been destroying it in the zone in 2024. Hold and stream Paddack in deeper formats because we have some metrics to support the skills.


Alec Marsh's Improved Four-Seamer

Marsh returned from the injured list after dealing with an elbow issue and pitched well against the Angels. He allowed four hits, one earned run, and two walks with seven strikeouts in 5.1 innings. Though it's a depleted Angels' lineup with Mike Trout and Luis Rengifo, we love the elite swinging-strike rate of 22.3 percent. 

Marsh elicited a career-best 10 whiffs on the four-seamer due to the above-average induced vertical break of 17 inches with 9.7 inches of arm-side run on May 10 against the Angels. Six of the 10 four-seamer whiffs came in the upper third of the zone, and his IVB led it to be dominant against one of the weaker lineups. 

Marsh's four-seamer improved in IVB, with a season-long average of 16.5 inches compared to 15.3 (2023). The four-seam added over 1.5 inches of arm-side run, giving it sneaky solid pitch characteristics. Marsh's four-seamer swinging-strike rate increased by over two percentage points while having better batted-ball results. 

His four-seamer has performed significantly better, evidenced by the .249 wOBA (2024) compared to a .409 wOBA (2023). Marsh throws the fastball most often against left-handed hitters (43.3 percent), and it has improved with a .283 wOBA (2024) and .331 (2023). Since it's a tiny sample of pitches against right-handed hitters, we don't want to overreact to his zero hits allowed across 22 pitches.   

Another reason to explain Marsh's better four-seamers involves the location. Last season, Marsh located the four-seamer in the upper third of the zone 9.1 percent of the time, jumping to 10.8 percent in 2024. With the better IVB, the results improved, with a .353 wOBA (2023) versus a .221 wOBA (2024) in the upper third. We noticed Marsh's four-seamer isn't being wasted as much in the area high and away from left-handed hitters. It appears like a concerted effort to locate and command the fastball better.


The Slider Changed

After throwing a sweeper 15.9 percent of the time, Marsh ditched it for a revamped slider. The slider has similar velocity (86-87 mph), yet nearly 100 more revolutions per minute (RPM), leading to over two inches of drop and sweep. While the swinging-strike rate doesn't wow us at 14.9 percent, it theoretically should generate more swings and misses.

Unfortunately, hitters have crushed the slider, especially right-handed hitters with a .387 wOBA. That's concerning because he uses the slider the most against righties at 42.9 percent of the time. The slider is better against lefties, with a .179 wOBA, though it's his fourth most used pitch versus opposite-handed hitters at 9.5 percent. 

Marsh's slider location is a bit strange, as it's more in the heart of the plate, which typically doesn't translate into whiffs. Ideally, he locates it more down and away from right-handed hitters or they'll continue demolishing it. With the added drop, look for Marsh to command the slider better.


Marsh having a better four-seamer is noteworthy because of the slight movement and location changes. The season-long IVB still makes it an average four-seamer, especially considering the vertical approach angle hasn't changed (-4.7 degrees), sitting around the league average (-4.8 degrees). Marsh's slightly lower horizontal release point seems to be impacting the movement profiles of the four-seamer, yet he lost a couple of inches of extension. He had deep league intrigue before the injury, with data supporting the interest, so continue streaming him. 


It's the First Time Alek Manoah Generated 15 Whiffs in a Game Since July 2022

There's no denying Manoah's roller coaster ride for real-life and fantasy baseball. Manoah has likely been dropped or hanging on waivers in most redraft leagues, whether it's the shoulder injury, control, command, or struggles. However, Manoah's start against the Royals on Sunday caught our attention with 15 whiffs in a game.

Five of Manoah's six whiffs on the four-seam came in the upper third of the zone. The four-seamer usage of 39.7 percent is notable because it's the highest rate since March 2023, with a season-long average of 29-30 percent over the past two seasons. 

It's hard to have confident takeaways for Manoah's pitch mix because it's a small sample of 11 innings in 2024. However, it's a slight fluctuation and not something actionable besides the 1-2 percentage points in pitch usage change from 2023. 

In Manoah's most recent start, the four-seam, changeup, and sinker had a one mph velocity increase, with the slider at 0.8 mph. Though it's one start, it's unfortunate that the movement profiles change away from his favor on multiple pitches. The only pitch that had more movement than the small sample season-long average involved the four-seamer having an additional inch of arm-side run. 

The dip in changeup vertical movement led to a career-worst swinging-strike rate of zero percent before Sunday's start. The numbers shifted drastically after Sunday, with a 20 percent swinging strike rate. Manoah's changeup lost 5-6 inches of vertical movement, indicating it shouldn't generate many swings and misses. Unfortunately, the changeup doesn't have an above-average movement profile horizontally, sometimes translating to inconsistency in avoiding hard contact.


Can Manoah Find Consistency Against Left-Handed Hitters?

It's a tiny sample in 2024, but the sinker (.190 wOBA) and four-seamer (.000 wOBA) have been effective against right-handed hitters. That's likely unsustainable, though the four-seamer has been one of his better pitches against righties (.239 wOBA) throughout his career. Manoah's slider has been a reliable pitch versus same-handed hitters, evidenced by a .179 wOBA in 2024 compared to a career average of .197. It's positive to see those trends continue in the small sample, even when we bake in some regression. 

Unfortunately, we can't say the same for Manoah's arsenal against left-handed hitters, with his "best" pitch being the four-seamer, allowing a .289 wOBA in his career. As seen in the rolling wOBA against lefties above, the four-seamer hasn't fared well in several previous seasons. 

Theoretically, Manoah's changeup should help neutralize lefties since it generated all four of his whiffs (20 percent swinging-strike rate) on the season. Sometimes Manoah struggles with commanding his pitches, and it's interesting to see him throw the changeup in the zone 40 percent of the time while hitters have been chasing 58.3 percent. Typically, pitchers lower their zone rates on changeups and splitters, sometimes causing hitters to chase pitches. Expect some regression on the changeup since the movement profile doesn't pop.



Manoah pitching well in a recent outing might warrant additional patience for the Blue Jays. They need his arm as a fifth starter due to injuries to Ricky Tiedemann, Yariel Rodriguez, and Bowden Francis. In previous seasons, he seemed due for regression, but we didn't expect Manoah to fall apart to this extent. Manoah has an effective arsenal against right-handed hitters but needs the four-seamer and maybe the changeup to be serviceable versus lefties. The four-seamer is an electric pitch when he locates it up in the zone, but he needs more consistency from the rest of the arsenal. 

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