A major trend among MLB pitchers in recent years has been the emphasis on breaking balls. Curveballs and slider, and particularly the latter, have become more common to see in at-bats. It’s not hard to see why, given that breaking balls have become the go-to pitches for whiffs. Here now is a look at the MLB hitters that saw the most breaking balls last season.
Which MLB hitters saw the most breaking balls in 2022?
Here are the 10 hitters who saw the most breaking balls in 2022:
- Trea Turner (Dodgers): 997
- Marcus Semien (Rangers): 987
- Aaron Judge (Yankees): 985
- Paul Goldschmidt (Cardinals): 982
- Dansby Swanson (Braves): 973
- Rhys Hoskins (Phillies): 972
- Randy Arozarena (Rays): 951
- Christian Walker (Diamondbacks): 903
- Matt Olson (Braves): 900
- Eugenio Suarez (Mariners): 893
There really weren’t many surprises from this list, which features three of the biggest names of this year’s free agent market. Dodger infielder Trea Turner did lead the league last season, seeing just three breaking balls shy of 1,000 on the season. The now-free agent batted just .247 off of breaking balls in 2022.
Now, let’s move on to Aaron Judge. The reigning AL MVP saw 985 breaking balls in 2022, out of 2906 total pitches. Almost 34% of all the pitches Judge saw last season fit this category. It certainly made sense — when diving into the numbers — as to why Aaron Judge received a steady diet of breaking balls late in the regular season and in the MLB Playoffs. While 22 of Judge’s total home runs were off the breaking ball, the Yankee did whiff at sliders and curveballs at a combined clip of 37.4%. Plus, Judge’s xwOBA against breaking balls (.451) was lower than against fastballs (.512).
The NL MVP, Paul Goldschmidt, also saw his fair share of curveballs and sliders. Goldschmidt saw 982 breaking balls in 2022, about 36% of all pitches that the Cardinals first baseman took last season. “Goldy” whiffed 36.8% of the time against the breaking stuff, but did manage to hit .295 off those pitches. That figure, though, is despite a xBA of .205 and xwOBA of just .299.