Every morning, the We Love Baseball crew reviews the Nastiest Pitches from the previous day’s games. If you see something you think should be included here be sure to tweet @PitcherList to let us know. Or, if you’re a PL+ Member and part of our Discord, shout it out in the Nastiest Pitches channel. If your suggestion is included the next day, you’ll be entered into a weekly drawing for a free t-shirt. If you’re not already a PL+ member, you’re missing out!
Nick Pivetta’s Knuckle Curve
Pretty much no one in the league can snap off a breaking ball as well as Pivetta. He currently leads all starters in induced vertical drop on curveballs (19.3 inches), enabled by an extremely vertical arm slot and spin axis along with a spin rate exceeding 2700 rpm. The hook provided a 35% CSW as Pivetta tossed a quality start in the Red Sox’s 16-3 walloping of the White Sox.
Shane McClanahan’s Changeup
This pitch is basically an 88 mph screwball, which just sounds like the most unfair thing ever. This changeup matched his jersey number with 18 inches of horizontal movement, and he hit his spot perfectly on the corner, freezing Jorge Soler. In this start, he threw six scoreless innings and lowered his season ERA to 2.09, and he leads all starting pitchers in CSW. Much of his success has been fueled by the much-improved changeup, which ran an incredible 43% CSW today.
Logan Webb’s Slider
This article might be the only one that talks about Webb’s performance in this game. It makes sense, given that the Giants and Mets scored a combined 15 runs and both made insane late-inning comebacks in what will go down as an all-time great game, capped off by Brandon Crawford’s walk-off single. Webb has ascended his way to ace status with an elite three-pitch mix and crazy horizontal movement, and his breaking ball has been one of the best in baseball.
Hirokazu Sawamura’s Splitter
Many pitchers throw great splitters, but Sawamura is among the most confident in using it as a strikeout weapon. Only two pitchers have thrown a higher fraction of splitters than him and he has a 43% strikeout rate with it this year. Sawamura has quietly put together a 3.12 ERA in two seasons in Boston.
Roansy Contreras‘ Slider
After a strong major league debut last September and making a few relief appearances earlier in the year, the highly touted Pirates prospect made his first full-length start today and was excellent, tossing five innings of one-run ball. He throws a mid-90s fastball with two really good breaking balls. Here, you see the slider, which he’s already shown willingness to throw to both lefties and righties, absolutely fooling Charlie Blackmon here.
Sonny Gray’s Sinker
I know MLB has been messing with the baseballs over the past few years, often with disastrous effect, but I didn’t think they were inserting wiffle balls into games. This sinker was ludicrous – out of the hand it looked like it would hit the batter Harold Castro, who at no point planned to swing. Gray arguably had the best pitching performance of the day, fanning 10 over seven scoreless innings with a 37% CSW.
Dany Jiménez‘ Slider
This pitch looks like it’s on the borderline between a slider and curveball, but the computers call it a slider so we will too. Jiménez has been a rookie sensation on an inexperienced Oakland roster; he’s a perfect 9/9 on save opportunities with a 0.52 ERA. He’s looked like an amazing closer option and has gotten the bulk of high-leverage innings with Lou Trivino struggling.
Kevin Gausman’s Splitter
Nine starts into his tenure as a Blue Jay, Gausman has been as brilliant as any other hurler in baseball. He has a ludicrous strikeout to walk ratio of 13, comfortably pacing the league. This splitter has spent the last three years in contention for the best pitch in baseball, and it’s one of my personal picks. Of any pitch thrown at least 200 times this year by a starter, Gausman’s splitter leads the league in swinging strike rate… by a lot. It has a 29.7% swinging strike rate, while only one other pitch even exceeds 24%.
Tyler Mahle’s Slider
Mahle’s been receiving a bit of negative attention this year because he plays for the Reds and has had a fair share of bad luck, but his peripherals indicate he’s still the above-average pitcher he’s been in recent years. This slider starts out over the plate but falls off the table, getting an unusual whiff out of Andrelton Simmons, who’s usually one of the best around at putting bat on ball.
Blake Snell’s Slider
This breaking ball satisfies both of my favorite criteria for evaluating nasty pitches – location and velocity. Snell dotted this pitch to Victor Caratini right on the low and inside corner, diving straight under his bat. This pitch was thrown at 88 mph, crazy high for a slider, and it topped out at 91 mph today. Tarik Skubal’s slider is the only non-fastball from a left-handed starter that averages more than Snell’s 88.6 mph average slider velocity from this game.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)