Rich Hill

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Let’s write a poem. I will call it “Rich Hill Showing Off His Curveball”:

Rich Hill Showing Off His Curveball

Ok, that’s not written but you get the idea. Hill’s curveball has been the subject of hundreds of pieces of writing, videos, gifs and analysis. It is a thing of wonder and everyone and their brother agrees on it. That’s why I am pretty excited to see this:

SeasonTeamFA%CU%
2011Red Sox24.60%75.40%
2012Red Sox42.90%53.90%
2013Indians29.10%39.00%
20142 Teams12.30%49.10%
2015Red Sox48.40%38.30%
20162 Teams47.00%46.80%
2017Dodgers54.80%39.30%
2018Dodgers57.70%39.60%
2019Dodgers52.00%45.80%
Total- - -51.10%39.50%

Look at how Hill’s use of the curveball grew back to 46%, the same level as 2016 when he had his best campaign ever. That’s a 20% increase from the previous two seasons and it’s a welcome one as we will see in the next table:

YearPitch TypeMPHHRSOBAXBASLGXSLGWOBAXWOBAEVSpinWhiff%PutAway%
2019Curve74.52300.2110.2110.3030.2790.2670.25982.6291920.220.1
2019Four Seamer90.36310.2290.2080.4820.4040.3130.28687.7247429.322.1
2018Curve74.63550.2210.2390.3160.3420.280.29886.1288421.121.2
2018Four Seamer89.413790.230.2350.4640.4770.3190.32889.8247227.326.2
2017Curve74.15690.230.2260.3450.3440.2950.381.6279825.518.5
2017Four Seamer89.213860.1740.1770.3790.3790.270.27687.7247032.228.6
2016Curve75.12620.1780.1950.2330.2740.2240.24985.5283622.818.8
2016Four Seamer90.92590.2120.1860.2810.3090.2560.25986.9245835.729.1

His curveball is a more effective pitch than his fastball by means of the wOBA and xSLG so you could expect better results now that he is using it more again.

The other important thing that caught my attention (please scroll to the far right of the table) is how the gap between his fastball and curveball PutAway% (the rate of two-strike pitches that result in a strikeout) has shrunken from 11% in 2016 to 2% in 2019; there could be several reasons for that but ultimately it’s the pitcher’s confidence (and the numbers that back it up) that might define this. As his fastball speed has stayed the same the past 3 seasons (around 90 mph) I kinda believe that he has not lost confidence in it but realized that he can rely more on the curveball to finish at-bats with success. And I love that because that’s a killer’s pitch.

I have stated other reasons to like Hill for this season (there is your written poem): His (k-bb)/ip and K%-BB% are on par with Jack Flaherty’s and Robbie Ray’s (athought last year’s sample is smaller than what I would’ve liked, for sure), he had plenty of time to recover from surgery and the shorter season eases his workload, so there are multiple reasons to believe in a strong performance this year. And yes, I know he is 40 years old but the good thing is he doesn’t rely on force but in skill and that makes a big difference.

If you go now, you can still grab Hill in almost 40% of Yahoo’s leagues, please go and change that.


All data used was taken from https://www.fangraphs.com/, https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/, and/or https://www.baseball-reference.com/, unless otherwise stated different.

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