Every morning, the We Love Baseball crew reviews the Nastiest Pitches from the previous day’s games in glorious high-definition GIFs. We want to bring you the highest caliber of nastiness possible, so if you see a nasty pitch, please tell us about it. You can tweet @PitcherList to let us know, and we’ll give you a shout-out here in the article if your tip makes the cut.
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Collin McHugh’s Slider
McHugh had a successful run as a starter for the Astros, but being moved to relief over the past few years has allowed him to weaponize his elite feel for breaking ball spin and make him an ace out of the bullpen with a 2.98 ERA since 2017. He’s simplified his arsenal to mostly a mix of cutters and sliders, and the slide-piece is on display here. This breaking ball spun at a cool 2722 rpm and broke 19 inches away from hitter Alcides Escobar.
Emmanuel Clase’s Slider
Clase has been magnificent as the Guardians’ closer ever since making it to the majors, with a ridiculous 270 career ERA+ and avoiding hard contact better than nearly anyone else. While this 91 mph slider is one of the fastest in all of baseball, it’s a serious change of pace from his triple-digit cutters. It’s safe to say Clase is in a league of his own in terms of both velocity and movement.
Trevor Richards‘ Changeup
Richards has always been known for elite pitch ability skills, and his top-tier changeup is a big reason why. While most pitchers like to kill spin on their changeups, Richards embraces the high sidespin approach in the mold of Devin Williams‘ airbender and it has almost screwball-like action. Last season, this pitch’s 25% swinging strike rate ranked third among all changeups in baseball, and Joey Gallo just showed you why.
Clayton Kershaw’s Slider
Kershaw had a chance to make history by throwing the 24th perfect game in MLB history, but was lifted after seven perfect innings after reaching his pitch count for the day. Regardless of your feelings about the hook (Kershaw didn’t seem to mind, at least publicly), you can admire and marvel over his magnificent start. This pitch earned him one of his 13 strikeouts on the day. While Kershaw’s slider isn’t nearly as effective as it used to be, it likely has my vote for the best individual pitch of the last decade.
Max Scherzer’s Changeup
Have you ever wondered how much a pitch would drop during its 60-foot flight if it had a spin rate of zero? Well, you just watched it. With exactly zero inches of induced vertical break, the pitch that looked like a meatball out of the hand ended up in the dirt (while also breaking a full 19 inches towards Jean Segura). Scherzer had a 33% CSW during this start, and with these wiffle-ball changeups, it’s easy to see why.
Nick Lodolo’s Slider
Lodolo has been highly touted as a prospect ever since his high school days, and was the consensus top college pitcher in the 2019 draft, earning him a 7th overall selection by the Reds out of TCU. In an era of teams valuing fastballs with cut and carry, Lodolo’s low-slot sinker/slider approach is rare for a modern starting pitcher, but he makes it work. This slider was also the first pitch that made the sensational Steven Kwan whiff at in his young major league career. Lodolo and his (college and professional) teammate Brandon Williamson appear to be two future left-handed anchors to the Reds’ rotation of the future.
Framber Valdez‘ Curveball
This breaker is being featured on Nastiest Pitches for Valdez’s second consecutive start, that’s how good it is. After having the best ERA on an Astros staff that won the pennant last year, Valdez has only improved his stuff since then. This curveball was perfectly located to the back foot of Geraldo Perdomo and absolutely fooled him for the big strikeout.
Aaron Nola’s Sinker
Sinkers aren’t necessarily in vogue in the current MLB, but the front door two-seamer may be one of the most visually appealing pitches possible. The pitch broke 18 inches to the right (more than an entire plate’s length) and froze Dominic Smith for the backward K, which is understandable given the pitch looked like it may hit him out of the hand.
Matt Festa’s Slider
This pitch might be the first thing I think of when hearing the phrase “frisbee ball”. While Festa may have benefitted from the umpire’s wide zone, the call didn’t make the pitch any less impressive. It broke 16 inches away from fellow righty José Abreu. Another component of the nastiness of this pitch is its vertical separation from Festa’s fastball. This pitch had -2 inches of induced vertical break, actually dropping compared to a ball without spin, which is uncommon for a slider.
Nick Sandlin’s Sinker
While teammate Emmanuel Clase is the ace of Cleveland’s bullpen, Sandlin demonstrated last season that he’s also must-see TV. Last season, he struck out nearly 13 batters per nine innings while maintaining an ERA under three. His sidearm slot allows him to maximize the horizontal movement on his pitches, with this sinker measuring in at 17 inches. Joey Votto is a generational master of the strike zone, but even he could do nothing but watch this pitch fall in for the called strike.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns of Twitter)