As we gear up for the 2022 season, the Nastiest Pitches team will be highlighting some of the filthiest pitches we see during Spring Training. 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 #nasty-pitches channel, where we host giveaways during the season. If you’re not already a PL+ member, you’re missing out!
Blake Treinen’s Slider
Treinen’s sinker was voted the Nastiest Pitch of 2021, but his slide-piece is an equally formidable pitch. He’s embraced the “sweeper” style of slider, which leverages spin and seam orientation to produce a filthy pitch with incredible horizontal break. Last year, Treinen’s breaker averaged 9.1 inches more sweep than the league average, highest among pitchers who threw at least 300 sliders. With this sweeper averaging over a foot of movement away from the batter, and his sinker breaking equally in the opposite direction, opposing hitters look absolutely lost at the plate against Treinen.
Gregory Soto’s Sinker
Some pitchers use crafty movement and speed changes to mess with hitters’ timing, but Soto blows you away with pure gas. This 98.6 mph sinker was the second-fastest pitch tracked by Statcast all day, and hitter Michael Chavis was far too late. This kind of heat from the left side is exceedingly rare. Last year, José Alvarado was the only southpaw who threw a harder slider than Soto. The Tigers have an excellent pitching core with young talents like Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal, and Casey Mize, but you shouldn’t sleep on their closer Soto either, who was an All-Star last year while sporting a 3.39 ERA.
José Berríos‘ Curveball
Ever since he entered the league, Berríos has had some of the best pitch movement of any major league hurler. His curveball has plenty of traditional dropping action, getting over two feet of vertical separation from his four-seam fastball. However, its horizontal movement is equally impressive, and the pitch has almost slurvy action. This particular curve broke 11 inches away from the bat of Alec Bohm, and by the time he realized the ball was moving off the plate, it was too late. Berríos threw 15 curveballs in his outing today with an impressive 40% CSW.
Marcus Stroman’s Changeup
Stroman has one of the most diverse pitch arsenals in all of baseball, and last season he parlayed his 3.02 ERA into a three-year deal with the Cubs. Stroman is an elite groundball pitcher, ranking in the top ten qualified starters in groundball rate last season. One of his keys to keeping the ball on the ground is his sinker/changeup combination. While the two pitches have similar shapes, the change-piece, as seen here, has more late drop and ends up with about 8 inches more long-form movement than the sinker, causing batters to swing over them and hit them straight into the ground.
Shane McClanahan’s Slider
McClanahan was a rookie sensation for the Rays last year, striking out over 10 batters per 9 innings while keeping a 3.43 ERA. While his fastballs got knocked around hard despite good velocity and spin, he threw a very good curveball along with one of the best sliders in baseball. Batters hit under .200 against the pitch while whiffing about 40% of the time. While his slider had good movement and spin traits, I find his glove-side command of the breaker to be the most impressive aspect of it. McClanahan’s slider heatmap basically looks like a single blob on the low corner, and that’s exactly where he threw it to playoff hero Eddie Rosario, who whiffed big time.
Mackenzie Gore’s Curveball
Gore’s time in professional baseball has been quite eventful, to say the least. The lefty was drafted third overall out of high school in 2018 and had arguably the best minor league season in recent memory in 2019, which led to his naming as a consensus top prospect. However, his standout trait – incredible command of a wide arsenal – faded heavily in 2020 and 2021. After re-working his delivery and pitching most of the past two seasons at the Padres’ complex rather than in minor league games, he appears to have kept most of his powerful stuff, although with less refined control. His start today looked really good on all fronts, striking out five batters while walking none across three shutout frames.
Dillon Tate’s Sinker
Tate truly puts the word “sink” in sinker. Compared to other sinkers thrown with similar velocity, Tate’s has 4.3 inches more drop than average. Those four inches are critical, as you can see Yankees’ top prospect Anthony Volpe swing right over this one. What’s far more impressive is what happens when batters put Tate’s sinker in play. Last year, the pitch averaged a -5 degree launch angle, meaning batters were hitting the ball down more often than up. Tate threw over 600 sinkers last season, but only 12 landed for extra-base hits.
Wil Crowe’s Slider
Crowe’s stuff was lights out today, getting ten swinging strikes in just 2 2/3 innings of work and earning himself the Spring Training version of the Gallows Pole (at least among Statcast-tracked games). In terms of raw stuff, Crowe’s slider is excellent, with an elite 2715 rpm spin rate and striking out 36 batters last year, the most of any of his pitches. He has struggled with command, though, walking 11 percent of batters and often throwing hanging breaking balls that get hit hard. This pitch, however, was spotted perfectly on the lower edge of the zone (and yes, it’s actually in the strike zone), fooling Jeimer Candelario after he saw an assortment of fastballs and curveballs.
Tyler Mahle’s Splitter
Mahle has enjoyed a breakout over the past two seasons, taking his combination of good stuff and great command to the next level. Even with the shortened 2020 season, Mahle struck out more batters (270) from 2020-2021 than he did in the three seasons prior. While his splitter is a distant third pitch to his four-seamer and cutter/slider hybrid, he still has a great feel for locating it, especially to left-handed hitters like Kolten Wong, as seen here. The ball starts out looking like a fastball low and outside before diving down and away past his bat for the whiff.
Luis Gil’s Slider
Gil was a sensation for the Yankees late last season, coming up as an injury replacement and dominating during his short big-league stint. In his first three starts, Gil threw 15.2 innings with 18 strikeouts while allowing zero runs. He primarily used a two-pitch mix, combining an upper-90s fastball with this gorgeous slider. Averaging over eight inches of sweep, this slider was nigh unhittable, with batters hitting just .135 against it while striking out 40 percent of the time. While Gil’s lack of a consistent third pitch may push him towards the bullpen in the future, his slider will guarantee him success no matter his major league role.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns of Twitter)