Brandon Woodruff has been one of the most underrated starters in the MLB. Since the start of the 2018 season, the Milwaukee Brewer has pitched to a 3.06 ERA and 137 ERA+ over 111 games, 96 of which were starts. The right hander will be pitching in his 14th career game against the St. Louis Cardinals this week as he is currently the projected starter for Friday’s game. Down below we are going to break down what the now 30-year-old brings to the table.
Pitch #1 - Four seam fastball - usage rate 38.4 percent (2022)
2022 stats - .192 xBA, .374 xSLG, .288 xwOBA
Average velo - 96.3 MPH - Spin rate - 2,350 RPM - vertical movement - 12.1 inches - horizontal movement - 6.0 inches
When Woodruff throws this pitch, it is done with the intention of either producing a ball in the air or a swing and a miss. Last season his four seamer had a launch angle of 25 degrees paired with a flyball percentage of 42.9 percent and pop-up percentage of 10.9 percent. Then its whiff percentage sat at 28.5 percent, a more than solid number. The main, and frankly just about the only way to hurt Woodruff when he throws this pitch is to hit a home run off of it. In 2021 and ‘22 combined Woodruff has allowed 19 home runs off of this pitch — he allowed 17 homers on his other four pitches combined. It will be interesting to see if Woodruff uses this pitch as much on Friday against the likes of Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt who have historically dominated fastballs.
Pitch #2 - Sinker - usage rate 21.5 percent (2022)
2022 stats - .276 xBA, .377 xSLG, .328 xwOBA
Average velo - 95.8 MPH - Spin rate - 2,286 RPM - vertical movement - 15.9 inches (3.9 inches below average) - horizontal movement - 14 inches
Despite its velocity being thrown right under his four seamer, the average exit velocity against this pitch was just 85.1 MPH, his second lowest mark on an offering. Woodruff really struggled to generate whiffs with this pitch with a 15 percent whiff percentage. Honestly when evaluating the numbers on this pitch I’m surprised he throws it as much as he does as nothing jumps off the screen.
Pitch #3 - Changeup - usage rate 16.3 percent (2022)
2022 stats - .193 xBA, .297 xSLG, .228 xwOBA
Average velo - 86.1 MPH - Spin rate - 2008 RPM - vertical movement - 28 inches - horizontal movement - 15.8 inches
There’s an argument to be made that this was his best pitch last season, above his four seamer. In 2022 it produced an average exit velocity of 83.6 MPH and a whopping 54 percent whiff percentage. It additionally has his highest put away percentage amongst his pitches at 27.7 percent. On top of that, the chase percentage against on the pitch was 40.2 percent, his highest mark by 9 percent. Expect for lefties in the Cardinals lineup to see this pitch often as he threw it 341 times to lefties last season.
Pitch #4 - Curveball - usage rate 12.6 percent (2022)
2022 stats - .229 xBA, .374 xSLG, .274 xwOBA
Average velo - 84 MPH - Spin rate - 2,497 RPM - vertical movement - 46 inches - horizontal movement - 14.7 inches
Woodruff’s usage on this pitch was odd in 2022. Between the start of the season and July, his monthly usage yo-yoed between 13.6 and 7.9 percent. Then in August, he threw it 20.2 percent of the time with that number dropping to 10.2 percent in September. This was Woodruff’s go-to ground ball pitch last season as he induced a ground ball rate of 51.3 percent with it to go along with a launch angle of 7 degrees.
Pitch #5 - Slider - usage rate 11.3 percent (2022)
2022 stats - .166 xBA, .236 xSLG, .172 xwOBA
Average velo - 88 MPH - Spin rate - 2,408 RPM - vertical movement - 32 inches - horizontal movement - 3.8 inches
Honestly, I think this is a pitch we will see a lot because of his end of season usage with it and how it profiles against the Cards lineup. In September of last season, he threw it 15.6 percent of the time, a significant uptick from the 6.1 percent he threw in August. It produces a high whiff rate at 45.1 percent overall and 67.2 percent when swung at out of the zone. I expect Woodruff to attack Nolan Arenado with this pitch regularly as he struggled against sliders last season. His run value per 100 sliders faced was just 0.2, which was only better than the -1.0 he produced against changeups.
2022 lefty/right splits
Lefties - 293 total batters faced - .190 AVG, .250 OBP, .320 SLG, 5 HR’s, 21 BB’s, 102 K’s
Righties - 327 total batters faced - .237 AVG, .295 OBP, .408 SLG, 13 HR’s, 21 BB’s, 88 K’s
Matchup to watch - Paul Goldschmidt - Goldy has 32 career at bats against Woodruff with the 2022 NL MVP striking out 11 times with 8 hits and 1 home run. Goldschmidt dominated four seamers last year, Woodruff’s most used pitch, posting a run value of +20 against them last year paired with a xSLG of .479 and xwOBA of .359.
All stats courtesy of BaseballSavant.com