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Appreciating Framber Valdez’s curveball

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Even though he took the loss against the Dodgers on Tuesday night, his curveball was sharp again. In this article, we take a deep look at that nasty pitch from the Dominican lefty.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

When you look at Framber Valdez’s start last night at Los Ángeles, you’ll see just a decent pitching line: 4 13 innings, four hits, three runs (two earned), one walk, two strikeouts, and —of course— the loss.

But it’s more than that. The Dominican lefty dazzled through the first four innings on Tuesday night. He allowed one single, gave up one base on balls, and struck out two Dodgers until the fifth. After the bunch of recent injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic, Valdez is a good option to fill the rotation, especially if he keeps dominating with his nasty curveball.

Last night, he punched out stars Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger on swinging strikes to that delivery (both in the strike zone, by the way, which probably makes them even better). Take a look at both outs, things of beauty...

And in case you’re saying: “So you’re basing on only one game to evaluate his curveball?”. Well, no, I researched his performance using that pitch since he came up to the big leagues back in 2018. And you’re gonna love it.

Since 2018, hitters have gone 15-for-139 against that delivery (!!!), which turns out to be a .108 batting average. Of his 104 career strikeouts, 79 have come thanks to his curveball (76%!). If you’re a hitter and you fall to a two-strike count, you gotta know that Framber throws it in 59.4% of the time. Even better: he uses it in 72.4% of the time when he gets an 0-2 count. That IS his pitch.

Among hurlers with at least 1500 total pitches thrown since 2018, Valdez owns the eighth-highest curveball usage percentage: 32.9%, only behind Matt Barnes, Will Harris, Rich Hill, Domingo Germán, Adam Wainwright, Charlie Morton, and Noé Ramírez.

But wait for it... Among the men who have thrown that pitch at least 20% of the time in the last three years (1500 total pitches minimum), the Palenque native owns the second-best opponent batting average. The only one better than him in that span is Ryan Buchter (.092).

By the way, take a look at the following image. This is where he’s thrown his curveball throughout his career (from catcher’s perspective)...

Do you see those three outer squares down in the left corner? Well, when Framber locates his curveball over those three spots, you just can’t get him. Take an eye at his Opp AVG with that pitch in those locations...

Impressive, right? Valdez might be in place to start again on Tuesday against the Diamondbacks at Minute Maid Park. If he indeed starts, it’ll be fun to see him go longer in the game. Regarding the rotation, Justin Verlander was shut down and José Urquidy isn’t ready to come back yet, but you can trust Valdez at least while the aforementioned pitchers get back to action.