Every morning, the We Love Baseball crew reviews the Nastiest Pitches from the previous day’s games in glorious high-definition GIFs. As a bonus for PL+ members, let us know about a pitch on the PL+ Discord in the Nasty Pitches Channel, and if your suggestion is included the next day, you’ll be entered into a weekly drawing for a free T-shirt!
Shohei Ohtani’s Curveball
Tonight, reigning MVP Shohei Ohtani became the first player in AL/NL history to be a team’s Opening Day starting pitcher and leadoff hitter. Ohtani has always had excellent natural feel for breaking ball spin, but he’s been working to use his curveball as a bigger part of his arsenal. He threw nearly a dozen curveballs today with a 55% CSW after seldom using the pitch in 2021.
Aaron Ashby’s Slider
The Brewers’ pitching staff is defined by stars like Brandon Woodruff and reigning Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes in the rotation and flamethrowers Josh Hader and Devin Williams in the bullpen, but perhaps equally gifted is Ashby, one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. He struck out over 11 batters per nine innings in 2021, and while he pitched out of the bullpen today, Ashby likely projects as a future starter.
Kyle Hendricks‘ Changeup
In an era defined by triple-digit gas and power pitching, Hendricks’ high-80s fastball velocity and pinpoint command make him an outlier. The 2016 ERA champion relies a lot on ground balls and weak popups to get outs, but that doesn’t mean his stuff can’t be nasty. Today, his changeup had an incredible 13 whiffs on 22 swings along with a 45% CSW, averaging an incredible 15 inches of horizontal fade.
Tylor Megill’s Slider
Due to unfortunate injuries to Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, the second-year player Megill was given the Opening Day nod for the Mets. He turned heads in Spring Training after adding a couple ticks of velocity, pumping a few 97 mph heaters after averaging 94-95 last season. Today, he threw a fastball at 99.1 mph, although he settled down a bit after that. Megill threw five scoreless innings with six strikeouts, partly due to a 50% CSW on this great slider.
Austin Voth’s Curveball
This pitch was absolutely insane. It starts out looking like a meatball over the middle of the plate, and batter Robinson Canó certainly thought so. Thanks to the pitch’s 2957 rpm spin rate, the ball broke 15 inches towards Canó and had 9 inches of induced vertical drop. While Voth has struggled at times locating pitches within the strike zone, his raw stuff certainly ranks among the top of the league.
Yu Darvish’s Cutter
Darvish was one of the pitchers hit hardest by the league’s sticky stuff crackdown last season, but he’s clearly back and ready to dominate again. He threw six innings of no-hit ball before being lifted with 92 pitches thrown. While the Padres unfortunately ended up losing, Darvish was incredible and this cutter was a big reason why.
Shane Bieber’s Curveball
Despite an alarming velocity drop from last season, Bieber still looked like the ace we’ve seen in years past today. He had a 32% CSW and allowed just one run in 4.2 innings of work, striking out four Kansas City Royals. This curveball to Nicky Lopez had over four feet of long-form drop, freezing him for the backwards K.
Adam Ottavino’s Sinker
If you paused this video a split-second after the ball left Ottavino’s hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me this play ended in a wild pitch. This sinker had a ridiculous 22 inches of armside horizontal break, barely clipping the outer part of the zone and absolutely freezing hitter Maikel Franco, who was likely baffled that it ended up being a strike.
Framber Valdez’s Curveball
Shohei Ohtani may be the first player to ever show up in a Nastiest Pitches article as both a hitter and a pitcher. This curveball absolutely fooled him as Valdez earned one of his six strikeouts of the night. Last year, Valdez cruised to a 3.14 ERA on the back of elite groundball rates and avoiding hard contact. Today, he shut out the Angels lineup through 6.2 innings and only allowed 2 hard-hit balls, tied for the fewest of any starter (per Statcast).
Corbin Burnes‘ Curveball
The reigning Cy Young winner Burnes got the opening day nod for the Brewers and went to work repeating his masterful 2021. While his overall results were mixed, he still had a 31% overall CSW and 32% on his elite cutter. But in terms of pure nastiness, the pitch that took the cake today was his curveball – a hard breaker that came in at over 80 mph with a spin rate north of 2800 rpm. The sharp downward movement was too much for catcher Willson Contreras, who swung over the pitch.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)