Researchers at Fanatics.com, the online sports retailer, analyzed the more than 6.5 million pitches thrown over the past nine baseball seasons, and found that each year, the four-seam fastball was the most popular pitch thrown in the big leagues. During the 2016 regular season, for example, over 36% of all pitches thrown were four-seamers. The four-seam fastball is typically straighter, and moves at a higher velocity, than its counterpart, the two-seam fastball.
The high, hard stuff may be in vogue. However, only two of the past seven World Series champs were four-seam fastball dominant teams. While the 2013 Boston Red Sox threw four-seam fastballs over 40% of the time, and last year’s champs, the Kansas City Royals, threw them at a rate of nearly 37%, every other champion favored other pitches, from change-ups (the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies) to sinkers (the 2009 New York Yankees, 2011 St. Louis Cardinals, 2012 San Francisco Giants, the 2014 San Francisco Giants) to the two-seam fastball (the 2010 San Francisco Giants).
And this year, the Cubs are the only team, of the five playoff teams remaining (Chicago, Washington, Los Angeles, Toronto, Cleveland), that also eschews the four-seamer. While the other clubs throw four-seam fastballs at least 30% of the time, making it their most common pitch, Chicago throws two-seam fastballs at a 26.48% clip, according to Fanatics. The four-seamer is Chicago’s second most popular pitch, though not by much: 25.32% of Chicago’s pitches are four-seam fastballs.
Call this study another sign that this is finally Chicago’s year. Cubs fans already feel good after Chicago’s stunning comeback win against the Giants Tuesday night: Chicago trailed 5-2 going into the top of the ninth, but rallied for four runs to close out the NLDS. Some stats don’t bode well for Chicago. Just four of the past 25 World Series champions, for example, finished the regular season with the best record in baseball, like Chicago did this year. Also, six of the past seven World Series champions held home field advantage. Since the American League won this year’s All-Star Game, Chicago wouldn’t host Games 6 and 7 of the series, should the Cubbies win the National League pennant.
But hey, at least Chicago’s not too enamored with the four-seamer. After a 108-year World Series drought, every hopeful sign helps.