Trueblood: The triumphant past, stormy present, and radical future of the sinker

From Matthew Trueblood at Baseball Prospectus on May 16, 2018:

In one sense, it’s a very dark moment in the history of the sinker. This year, MLB pitchers have thrown 2.06 four-seam fastballs for every sinker, the highest such ratio in the PITCHf/x era (since 2008). That ratio was 1.79 in 2008, but dipped as far as 1.54 in 2012 and was at or below 1.65 from 2010 through 2014. As the PED and amphetamine eras ended and the infield shift became a key defensive strategy, and as the sabermetric revolution highlighted the value of ground-ball pitchers, the sinker enjoyed a happy revival. It’s always been a prominent part of the game, but just how prominent has varied over time, and within the last decade we’ve seen it rise sharply—then become less common than ever.

The juiced ball has contributed to the move back toward emphasizing the four-seamer. So, too, have hitters’ collective adjustment to the pitchers’ collective trend toward pounding the bottom of the strike zone. As Statcast has suffused the analytical endeavors of every MLB team, the sinker has also suffered. Sinkers don’t generally tunnel well with other pitches, and they tend not to have movement or spin characteristics that can be manipulated and optimized as easily as those of the four-seamer or of various off-speed offerings. It’s tough out there for the pitch that made many a career over the last 25 years and that perhaps defines the men who throw it more than any other individual pitch besides the knuckleball.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: May 16, 2018. Last Updated: May 16, 2018.