The apparent cause of this success is his blazing fastball. Thornton is extremely reliant on the number one, using it a whopping 90.6% of the time – over 3% more than the next highest qualified reliever. Hitters have had an extremely difficult time with it. The 17.4% whiff rate is nearly three times the league average, and even when hitters do manage to make contact, it’s much more likely to wind up as a foul ball (24.6%) as opposed to in play (12.8%). Even when it’s in play, hitters haven’t been doing much with it. As the final nail in the coffin, hitters can’t simply take and expect a ball – Thornton’s fastball has a 70% strike rate, about 6 points above the league average. As such, Thornton’s fastball has been worth over 10 runs according to pitch type linear weights, the most valuable pitch to any reliever in baseball, eclipsing Carlos Marmol’s slider by over a run.
June 2, 2010
Fangraphs on Matt Thornton and his “fantastic fastball”
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