Going Deep: The 5 Best Splitters of 2018

Ben Palmer takes a look at the five best splitters of 2018.

I’ve been diving into some of the best pitches thrown in baseball in 2018, starting with changeups, followed by curveballs, sliders, cutters, and fastballs. Today, we’re going to close out this series and take a look at the five best splitters thrown in the MLB this past season.

As a reminder, these pitches are ranked by pVAL, and if you aren’t sure what that all means, check out the changeups article, which will explain everything you need to know.

So let’s do it!


No. 5: Shohei Ohtani



Honestly, I think that if Shohei Ohtani had been able to pitch more last year, his pVAL would’ve been higher on his splitter. It’s a great pitch, though he didn’t throw it much last year (just 20 times).

However, when he did throw it, it worked really well, posting a 47.1% chase rate and 30% SwStr rate. Because it got swung at so much, he virtually never threw it in the zone (just a 15% zone rate).

Also, fun fact: Hitters were 0-for-20 against Ohtani’s splitter last year.


No. 4: Yoshihisa Hirano



Yoshihisa Hirano throws two pitches: a fastball and a splitter. Being that he’s a reliever, that works out just fine. His fastball sets up his splitter, and his splitter works as a strikeout pitch.

And it worked well last year, posting a 44.9% chase rate and an 18.9% SwStr rate along with a .230 wOBA and .084 ISO against on its way to an 8.2 pVAL.

His fastball worked pretty well too; it wasn’t a strikeout pitch, but that’s not what he was throwing it for. Instead, hitters had just a .233 average against it and the pitch logged a solid 6.8 pVAL. Not bad for a 34-year-old’s first time in the MLB.


No. 3: Kirby Yates



Even though it’s not the No. 1 splitter on this list, Kirby Yates‘ splitter might be my favorite of the group. It’s a really nasty pitch that works really well as a strikeout piece, and it was awesome last year.

It was also a brand new pitch for Yates. He abandoned his changeup and went for a splitter, and it worked wonders, posting a 56.3% chase rate, 25.7% SwStr rate, 46.6% strikeout rate, and a .193 wOBA and .063 ISO against.

It also nabbed him the best pVAL of his career at 8.6, with his fastball getting him his second-best pVAL of his career at 7.1.


No. 2: Jose Leclerc



If Jose Leclerc had one putaway pitch last year, it was his splitter (though his changeup was a close second). Last year, the pitch worked beautifully as a strikeout pitch, logging a 38.9% chase rate and a 23.8% SwStr rate on its way to a 10.0 pVAL, the best pVAL of his career so far.

It was also a good pitch at generating weak contact, as opposing hitters had just a .157 wOBA and .011 ISO against the pitch. Also, fun fact: Not a single pitch in Leclerc’s repertoire (which consists of five pitches) had a negative pVAL.


No. 1: Jorge De La Rosa



Jorge De La Rosa is probably not who you were expecting to top this list, but top it he does.

De La Rosa has actually had a good splitter for a long time. Its 10.9 pVAL last year was the best its been since 2015, but in 2015, it had a great 12.6 pVAL with a 14.8 pVAL in 2014.

De La Rosa’s splitter worked nicely as a strikeout pitch, with a 48.6% chase rate and a 16.4% SwStr rate. It also induced a fair amount of weak contact, with a 61.6% ground-ball rate and a .210 wOBA and .057 ISO against.


BONUS: Masahiro Tanaka



Honestly, if there is any pitcher in baseball known for his splitter, it’s probably Masahiro Tanaka, so I figured I’d include Tanaka on this list to spare you the stress of writing me an angry comment saying, “WHERE IS TANAKA?” (similar to what I did with Chris Sale on the sliders article).

Tanaka’s splitter was definitely really good last year, with a 55.5% chase rate (the most-chased pitch in all of baseball) and a 21.7% SwStr rate on its way to a 3.4 pVAL (good for 10th-best among splitters).

But the pitch actually has taken some steps back the past couple years. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great strikeout pitch, but it’s been getting hit better lately.

In 2016, the pitch had a fantastic 18.1 pVAL, and hitters had just a .192 wOBA and .067 ISO against it. But those numbers have slowly been climbing up. In 2017, hitters had a .272 wOBA and .188 ISO against the pitch, and this past year, they had a .271 wOBA and .132 ISO.

Still a great pitch but not as good as it was.

Photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire

Ben Palmer

Senior columnist at Pitcher List. Lifelong Orioles fan, also a Ravens/Wizards/Terps fan. I also listen to way too much music, watch way too many movies, and collect way too many records.

2 responses to “Going Deep: The 5 Best Splitters of 2018”

  1. Alex says:

    The Leclerc v Ohtani gif was a nice choice.

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