Spring training is just around the corner, but we can’t last that long without another GIF tournament. We’re only human. So we’ve put together a 32-pitch free-for-all featuring eight pitches each from 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
In a battle of timeless GIFs versus instant classics, you decide where these knee-buckling breaking balls and NOS-powered fastballs rank. But there can only be one GIF that stands above the rest in the Nastiest 32 Pitching GIFs from 2015 to 2018 Tournament. (Sort of like the movie Highlander.) Thirty-two pitches in 16 matchups to decide who advances to the Sweet 16. (Which is much harder to accomplish in this tournament than the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments.)
Here are the rules:
- All GIFs were pulled from the winners and top finishers in GIF tournaments from 2015 through 2018.
- You can only vote on a matchup once, so make sure you pick the one you absolutely want. No take-backsies. (Very strict policy.)
- Voting will continue until 12:00 a.m. EST the following morning. This is the first round.
Here are the matchups for Round 1:
Chris Sale‘s Slider 2018 vs. Drew Storen‘s Slider 2016
Steven Wright‘s Knuckleball 2016 vs. Jose Berrios‘ Curveball 2018
Lance McCullers‘ Fastball 2017 vs. Blake Treinen‘s Slider 2018
Clayton Kershaw‘s Curveball 2015 vs. Jose Berrios‘ Curveball 2017
Chaz Roe‘s Slider 2016 vs. R.A. Dickey’s Knuckleball 2015
Justin Verlander‘s Curveball 2017 vs. Core Kluber’s Slider 2017
Aaron Sanchez‘s Fastball 2015 vs. Aaron Nola‘s Fastball 2017
Dillon Maples‘ Slider 2018 vs. Rich Hill‘s Curveball 2015
Marcus Stroman‘s Slider 2017 vs. Lance McCullers‘ Fastball 2018
Steven Wright Knuckleball 2015 vs. Blake Treinen‘s Fastball 2018
Aroldis Chapman‘s Fastball 2016 vs. Noah Syndergaard‘s Fastball 2016
Clayton Kershaw‘s Curveball 2016 vs. Aaron Sanchez‘s Fastball 2.0 2016
Chris Sale‘s Slider 2016 vs. Aroldis Chapman‘s Slider 2017
Aroldis Chapman‘s Fastball 2018 vs. Noah Syndergaard‘s Fastball 2015
Adam Ottavino‘s Slider 2018 #1 vs. Gerrit Cole‘s Fastball 2015
Blake Treinen‘s Fastball 2017 vs. Aaron Sanchez‘s Fastball 2016
Watch the GIFs in the Links Below!
Chris Sale didn’t just walk away with a World Series ring in 2018. He also received the arguably more prestigious honor Nastiest Pitching GIF of 2018 with this slide-piece against Mr. Anti-Johnny Hustle himself. Which means Drew Storen’s slider that made Mookie Betts look like a fool back in 2016 has an uphill battle ahead.
Steven Wright’s knuckleball is one of the most ridiculous pitches in Major League Baseball. It’s got the typical, inconsistent movement of a knuckler but has late, savage break similar to the top sliders in baseball — this one in 2016 being a prime example. At the same time, it’s not every day someone throws a pitch that almost drills batter, yet turns into a swinging strike like Jose Berrios’ curve from 2018.
One of the first things young hitters learn is “if you bail on a pitch, don’t swing at it” — with varying terminology. Apparently, Trey Mancini never learned that lesson, with this Lance McCullers fastball from 2017 serving as evidence. It’s a wonder he made it this far doing that. Not that Mitch Moreland looked much better against Blake Treinen’s slider from 2018. Someone needs to stick a bat behind their feet during BP so they can stop stepping out.
Clayton Kershaw has zero chill. We get it, you have one of the best 12-6 curves in the game. You don’t need to start it, like, 15 feet above the zone like this one in 2015. Not that Berrios is any better. He pretty much starts this hook from 2018 at Caleb Joseph’s belly button and drops it in over the inner-half. Again, we get it, you don’t need to physically intimidate hitters with a baseball. Couple of try-hards in this first-round battle.
R.A. Dickey’s knuckler from 2015 has some sweet tumbling action. Proof a knuckleball can be the most visually appealing pitch to watch on-screen. But that pitch has to surpass one of the greatest sliders anyone’s ever seen. Chaz Roe teased Russell Martin with a slider that looked like the perfect batting practice fastball, resulting in as bad a lunge as anyone saw in 2016 — or any year fro that matter.
Chaz Roe‘s Slider 2016 vs. R.A. Dickey’s Knuckleball 2015
This slider was a part of Corey Kluber’s 2017 Cy Young campaign. That’s all well and good, but it bears no weight in this tournament. All GIFs are created equally. Not that this Justin Verlander curveball from the Houston Astros’ 2017 World Series run needs any help. What a terrible look for the ToddFather.
Some fastballs have both sink and arm-side run. When that’s the case, those pitches move in a diagonal pattern all at once. Which is what makes this Aaron Sanchez fastball from 2015 so unique: It breaks twice. First down, then down and in. Not to mention it started at Coco Crisp’s hip and ran back over the plate. It’ll be very tough for Aaron Nola’s fastball from 2017 to pull off the upset against a very good third seed.
Do you think Chris Sale knew Rich Hill’s curveball moved like this when he said, “He only has two (expletive) pitches,” to the Boston Red Sox in the 2018 World Series? This hook is from 2015, so he had to have seen at least one before, right? If that’s the case, did he just forget how hard it is to hit? Hill’s hook has a first-round matchup with a Dillon Maples slider from 2018 that, if it were a person, would be the least trustworthy individual on the planet. This pitch looks like the ideal pitch to hit until it runs away, leaving Daniel Palka empty-handed.
Not sure why Carlos Correa was so upset after he swung at this slider from Marcus Stroman in 2017. Sure, he struck out, but what righty wouldn’t have on the pitch? Could be worse. He could be like Nelson Cruz in 2018 against this Lance McCullers fastball that almost went off his kneecaps. Now that’s a bad swing.
Whoever is in charge of this whole tournament really needs to rethink his life because there’s no way this Steven Wright knuckleball from 2015 should be anything less than a No. 1 seed. (Yes, the guy who writes these up is the same guy who set the brackets — me. As I break the fourth wall within a fourth wall break, I realize there’s a lot more in my life that I need to rethink.) There isn’t a single player who has ever played the game who would’ve hit this pitch, so credit Didi Gregorious for not filing an official complaint to Major League Baseball because Wright had to be cheating. Good luck to Blake Treinen’s 2018 fastball in this matchup. A 99 mph bowling ball is cool and all, and certainly the pitch every pitcher would love to master like Treinen, but this seems like a very difficult upset to pull off.
Lefty versus righty cheese. Didn’t Twix have an ad campaign with a similar idea? Both Aroldis Chapman’s fastball from the 2016 postseason and Noah Syndergaard’s fastball from the 2016 regular season get up into the triple digits. Chapman’s was a bit harder with a little more run. Syndergaard’s was dotted on the black and froze Bryce Harper for the backward K. Not sure how you decide on one versus the other.
What’s funny about these two pitches is everyone is so casual in both. I kind of understand Aaron Sanchez’s fastball from 2016. He’s done that plenty of times before, but it’s a pitch Aaron Judge or any righty will freeze on more often than not. But Clayton Kershaw’s hook in 2016 was coming right at Brandon Belt. Yet no flinch, just a take and a K. Maybe he’s just seen Kershaw enough to know he’s generally better off not trying.
Look, this Chris Sale slider from 2016 is filthy, don’t get me wrong, but how does anyone make the mistake Mark Trumbo made? Man, that must’ve been so embarrassing. Even Sale was caught off-guard. He thought that it was a ball tipped into play or something. Aroldis Chapman’s slider from 2017 might’ve ended in the same result if he were facing a lefty. Instead, he embarrassed Brad Miller.
These pitches are essentially the right-handed and left-handed version of one another, making for a very difficult decision for you, the voter. Maybe the toughest of the opening round. Aroldis Chapman’s fastball from 2018 and Noah Syndergaard’s heater from 2015 are only separated by 1 mph (advantage Chapman.) Outside of that, there really isn’t much separating these. Happy voting!
Adam Ottavino’s time with the Colorado Rockies is at an end. The righty is heading to The Concrete Jungle, but he left Rockies fans with this slider from 2018 that will leave them tripping — they don’t even need to visit a dispensary. That pitch goes against some Gerrit Cole cheese from when he was still with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015. It almost seems to run and rise. That explains why Adam LaRoche would swing at it.
You have to appreciate the way Matt Weiters respected Aaron Sanchez’s front-door heater from 2016. No complaints, no whine. He flinched and got beaten. He certainly handled it better than Brandon Nimmo did Blake Treinen’s fastball from 2017. The thing was right at his knees, meanwhile Nimmo’s trying to sell that as a ball harder that Jeremy Piven did cars in that awful 2009 movie The Goods: Live hard, Sell Hard.