As we gear up for the 2022 season here at Pitcher List, the Nastiest Pitches team will be highlighting our personal rankings for the Nastiest Pitches in each division. There is no stat that quantifies nastiness, so these are all opinion based and your opinion may be totally different. That’s okay – we welcome it! If we left someone out that you feel should have been included, please sound off in the comments so we can make sure to keep an eye on that pitch during the season.
For each division, we’ll highlight a Top 10 as well as some honorable mentions that deserve a shoutout. Today we start with the AL East. Let’s get nasty!
Lucas Luetge’s Curveball
Internet comments are usually a well-documented cesspool, however, on rare occasions, something good can come out of them. Lucas Luetge was mentioned by a reader on a Nastiest Pitches article last year as someone we should be looking at. Sure enough, that internet commenter was onto something. Luetge’s curveball is a beautiful pitch, something that deserves to hang in the Lourve during the offseason. It was among the best curveballs in the league in SwStr%, CSW%, xAVG, and xMOV, and it was also one of the slowest. If he can improve some of his other offerings, look out.
Michael Wacha’s Changeup
Listen. Michael Wacha never panned out as the ace it once looked like he might be, but he’s been a serviceable starting Pitcher who’s shown flashes of greatness at times throughout his career. Remember those early days in St. Louis? He was the next big thing. Or at least I thought he was. Either way, flash forward to 2022 and he’s a member of the Boston Red Sox with an eye on a rotation spot. He may only have a fastball that lives in the low 90s, but his changeup has been a borderline Money Pitch for a good chunk of his career and he gets some filthy movement with it. Look for him to raise some eyebrows this season in his new home.
Hirokazu Sawamura’s Splitter
You don’t see too many splitters thrown over 90 MPH. In fact, Hirokazu Sawamura had the second-highest average splitter velocity in baseball (behind only Jeurys Familia) in his debut season. That’s absurd. It doesn’t get too much movement, however, and it’s actually in the bottom third of splitters in terms of movement, but it’s on this list strictly for its’ absurd velocity. Who knows, maybe an adjustment or two could catapult this pitch into the top 10 next season.
Clay Holmes‘ Sinker
Clay Holmes was on my radar before his trade to the Yankees last season, but now that he’s in New York he’s able to show off his disgusting sinker on a nightly basis. The pitch had a 33.3% CSW on the year and, as you can see above, it’s a nasty pitch with some extra bite on it. Our own James Schiano called Holmes one of the Five Best Relievers You’ve Never Heard Of earlier this offseason and I totally agree. Here’s to more of this in 2022.
Shane McClanahan’s Sinker
I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t include Shane McClanahan’s sinker on this list. This was named the Nastiest Pitch of April 2021 for good reason and he’s not going away anytime soon now that he’s established himself as one of the best young arms in the game. Sure, the velocity fizzled out near the end of the year, but there’s plenty to be excited for with McClanahan in 2022.
10. Alek Manoah’s Slider
The young righty exploded onto the scene in 2021 and is a popular mid-round target for fantasy leagues this season. The slider is easily his best pitch in terms of CSW% (33.1%) and helped account for nearly half of his strikeouts last season. He’s quickly become a must-watch for Nastiest Pitches purposes and, for that reason, he’s earned a spot on this list.
9. Rich Hill’s Curveball
Rich Hill is back in Boston, which means everyone’s favorite curveball is still around for another year. The man can throw it over the top, sidearm, and everywhere in between while still blowing it past dudes (albeit slowly) who are looking to hit it a long way. Deception is a huge part of his game, and even when batters know the slow hook is coming they still whiff and look silly. Mr. Mountain will be missed when he finally decides to hang up the cleats.
8. Aroldis Chapman’s Fastball
The man has been around for what seems like forever, but Aroldis Chapman is still throwing triple-digit bullets out of the Yankees’ bullpen as one of the most feared closers in the game. Sure, he doesn’t touch 105 MPH anymore, but 102-103 MPH at times is still legitimate velocity and at age 34 that’s pretty darn impressive. It’s no longer his best pitch, but it’s still one of the nastiest when he can paint the corner at triple digits.
7. Chris Sale’s Slider
Red Sox fans all over New England were lucky to catch a glimpse of Chris Sale during his rehab stints as he worked his way back from Tommy John surgery, but let’s be honest. It’s better to have Sale back in Boston pitching for the big league squad. The slider has always been the nastiest of Sale’s pitches and it regained its’ form post-injury, though a 34.5% CSW with the pitch is pretty low by his standards. We’ll give him a pass since he was coming off of major arm surgery but it’s something to watch moving forward.
6. Gerrit Cole’s Knuckle Curve
Gerrit Cole’s fastball is obviously elite, but his nastiest pitch is easily that knuckle curve. It had a little more bite earlier in the year, but the movement is still there and so are the results. A 39.1% CSW with the pitch is absurd, and at 83.4 MPH it’s one of the fastest curveballs in the league. He’s the ace of the Yankees’ staff and he’s got an arsenal full of filth, but the curveball is truly the icing on the disgusting cake.
5. Corey Kluber’s Curveball
Corey Kluber’s days as a fantasy ace may be over, but that curveball still has some magic in it. A move from New York to Tampa may also help as the Rays always seem to get the most out of their pitching assets. In an injury-shortened season, Kluber’s curveball posted an otherworldly 39.2% CSW, one of the best marks of his career. In fact, it was one of the best curveballs in the entire league last season. Just look at all this red!
That’s a thing of beauty. Tampa Bay has one of the best camera angles in the league, so here’s hoping that Kluber can stay healthy and provide our Twitter timelines with a ton of filth.
4. Kevin Gausman’s Splitter
Toronto is going to be a frightening team this year, and not just on offense either. The addition of Kevin Gausman brings another top of the rotation piece to the Blue Jays’ staff and batters across the AL East have to be scared to face them. Gausman’s splitter loves to sit down and away to lefties (or down and in to righties), and its’ horizontal movement is among the best in the league (5th most among splitters). The thing looks like it’s coming right down the heart of the plate and then ends up six inches out of the zone. It’s nuts, and the pitch is a big reason why Gausman has finally turned into an ace after years of middling results. He’s must-see TV anytime he pitches.
3. José Berríos‘ Curveball
José Berríos‘ curveball is a legendary pitch that we’ll be telling our grandkids about someday. It can be a little inconsistent at times, but when it’s on, it’s one of the filthiest pitches in the entire league. He struggled a bit with the pitch at times in April and June, but in August and September it was a deadly weapon that should be banned by the Geneva Convention. Regardless of the results, the sheer nastiness of the pitch makes it one of the best in the division.
2. Aroldis Chapman’s Splitter
We saw Chapman’s fastball above, but his splitter has become the filthiest pitch in his arsenal and I don’t really think it’s close. The pitch had a whopping 40.4% CSW last year, tops among all splitters, but the most impressive attribute of the pitch is its lack of spin. An average spin rate of 959 RPM ranks among the lowest of all splitters and batters struggle to pick the pitch up, often leading to flailing whiffs like the one above courtesy of Marwin González. Chapman may be on the back end of his career, but the fact that he was able to add this pitch in 2020 and perfect it just a year later makes me think he’s going to stick around as an effective reliever for longer than we think.
1. Tanner Houck’s Slider
Was there ever any doubt which pitch would be the top dog in this division? There shouldn’t have been. The Red Sox’ young stud may not have established himself as a bonafide starter yet, but he’s well on his way and that slider is going to be striking out opposing batters for years to come. His other offerings still need some refinement, but not this one. This might be the nastiest slider in the entire league at the moment.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)