Back in December, we crowned Tanner Houck as the champion of the 2020 Nastiest Pitches Tournament. Now, with Spring Training underway, it’s time to take a look at the Nastiest Pitch Arsenals in the league. This tournament features eight SPs with the best stuff in the league, squaring off with each other in order to crown the nastiest of them all.
Now, there are a few rules we must follow:
- Please vote for whichever pitching arsenal you feel is the nastiest in each matchup. The best thing about Nastiest Pitches is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder – we all have different definitions of what we think a nasty pitch looks like, so there will likely be some surprises in the results.
- You can only vote on a matchup once, so make sure you pick the one you absolutely want.
- Voting will continue until 12:00 a.m. EST the following morning.
Without further ado, here’s how the 2020 bracket shapes up:
This seems like a daunting matchup for the young Corbin Burnes, but I think he’s up for the challenge. Burnes broke out in the 2nd half of the 2020 season and finally looked like the ace many suspected he could be. He introduced a filthy cutter that he used to attack lefties, and it earned a wonderful 34% CSW on the year. His slider had a ridiculous 26.6% swinging strike rate despite only throwing it in the zone 26.6% of the time. That’s a lot of whiffs off the plate. The fastball/sinker sits at 96 MPH, the changeup has some deadly arm-side movement, and the curve has a beautiful break along with a 40.4% CSW, the best number for all of his pitches. If Burnes can build on 2020’s success, he has the makings of a Top 15 pitcher.
But yes, the youngster has to face off against the nastiness king himself. When you tally up all of his various pitches and pitch alterations (he throws three different curveballs and two types of the cutter), Yu Darvish throws eleven (11!!) different pitches. This article by Mike Petriello over on MLB.com goes into detail about 10 of Darvish’s pitches, but as you’ll see from the wonderful overlay above (courtesy of our own Alex Fast, the overlay king), Darvish also throws something called “The Supreme.” What’s The Supreme? Heck if I know. But stats don’t do Darvish’s nastiness justice. Just watch the GIF, and you can see how filthy his stuff is.
Two Hall of Fame-bound pitchers square off here in the quarterfinals, and it’s going to be tough to pick one of the two. Sure, Max Scherzer throws five different pitches compared to Clayton Kershaw‘s three, but Kershaw’s curveball is arguably the best of them all. The slider is actually the money pitch in Kershaw’s arsenal, but that curve is still the prettiest pitch in all the land.
Meanwhile, Scherzer’s slider is also a money pitch, and his curveball has a CSW% close to 40%. Even at the ripe young age of 36, Mad Max is still sitting 95 on the gun and pushing upper 90s at times. The fastball does sit out over the plate a bit too often, but as you can see from the GIF, he still loves to pepper the bottom of the zone with his off-speed stuff. Hitters across baseball will be happy when these guys finally retire.
This matchup of AL Central foes also is a matchup between the AL Cy Young winner (Shane Bieber) and the runner-up (Kenta Maeda). I watched a ton of these two in 2020, and I suspect I’ll also watch a lot of them in 2021, as well. Bieber’s 39.1% O-Swing% on his cutter was just short of classifying the pitch as a money pitch, but every pitch had an above-average CSW% on the season as he was dominant from beginning to end.
Maeda came over from Los Angeles prior to the 2020 season and was finally given the opportunity to start every five days, and boy did he deliver. His filthy slider/changeup combo kept batters on their toes all year, wiping them out with filthy movement both to the glove and arm side, respectively. He dabbled with a sinker, cutter, and curveball as well, and batters were confused all year long. I’d expect both of these guys to contend for the Cy Young award once again.
It’s the battle of New York. deGrom can touch all four corners of the zone with any pitch he wants at any time and can overpower you with a triple-digit fastball and devastating off-speed stuff, all with pinpoint control. And Gerrit Cole is equally as dominant. These are the best two pitchers in baseball, and you don’t need me to explain why. Vote with your heart!
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)