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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Trevor Richards‘ Changeup
The movement on this pitch is so ridiculous that you could reverse the direction of the movement on it and it would pass as a convincing curveball or slider. Richards throws one of the best changeups in baseball, with batters missing over half the time they swing at it. With its ultra-high spin rate (2480 rpm), this pitch is one of the closest analogs to the famous “Airbender” thrown by Devin Williams. This changeup has allowed just a .156 batting average while generating more strikeouts than balls in play.
Adam Wainwright’s Curveball
Throughout this article, you’ll see a minor theme of “old guys who can still really spin it”. Wainwright has had a career resurgence as of late, and the past three seasons (age 38-40) have actually lowered his career ERA. Throughout his nearly 2500-inning big league career, his breaker has always been a go-to GIF-able pitch. He still features elite two-planed break, ranking in the top 10 among starters in vertical drop while ranking second in horizontal movement.
Ryan Helsley’s Fastball
Helsley’s fastball is an outlier in so many ways and it’s so fun to watch and break down. First, you can see the absurd radar gun reading on the screen. Helsley is averaging over 99 this year, but in his inning in Toronto, he averaged 100. He’s even touched 103 a few times this season! But what’s even more insane is the movement profile. His heater averages over 18 inches of induced vertical break, which is really good but not unheard of. But he gets almost no horizontal run on the pitch, with only 3 inches of arm side break. Among pitchers with at least as much vertical movement as Helsley, only four have less horizontal movement, and this creates a very unfamiliar look for hitters, leading to whiffs. Just like Barney Stinson’s mixtape, Helsley’s fastball is all rise and he ended the game with style here.
Charlie Morton’s Curveball
This pitch is beautiful. A hard breaking ball that dives beneath the zone to strike out the generally patient Kyle Schwarber is as good as it gets. The veteran Morton throws more curveballs than all but three starters (Smyly, Hill, Luzardo) but still, the movement is so ridiculous that no batter can square it up. Morton’s hammer had an impressive 37% CSW in his start against Philadelphia.
Lucas Luetge’s Slider
It’s no surprise that I love to write about pitchers who are unique in some way, and Luetge’s signature trait is that he’s one of the only pitchers in the league who exclusively throws pitches that move to his glove side. With an arsenal consisting of a cutter, slider, and curveball, Luetge truly embraces a breaking ball heavy approach and has become an absolute master of managing contact. Despite almost never touching 90 mph with his cutter, Luetge has an ERA below 3 and leads the league in preventing hard-hit balls. This sweeper to fellow lefty Brandon Nimmo perfectly dots the outside corner and sends him packing.
Drew Rasmussen’s Cutter
Very few pitches that are thrown this hard also have this much movement. Rasmussen averages over 91 mph on his cutter but it still dives down to the bottom of the zone and inside on the hitter Cedric Mullins. If you pause this video about halfway through you’ll see a ball headed right for the middle of the plate, but it hits the corner and gets the big whiff.
Max Scherzer’s Slider
On his 38th birthday, Scherzer turned back the clock and pitched like someone over a decade his junior. He tossed seven scoreless innings against the Yankees with a 30% CSW and lowered his season ERA to a cool 2.09. He had ten whiffs on sliders alone, and you can see one of them here against the white-hot Aaron Judge.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)