Clayton Kershaw‘s curveball, Chris Sale‘s slider, Jose Alvarado‘s two-seam fastball, Kenley Jansen‘s cutter: these are all examples of some of the nastiest pitches in Major League Baseball. Watching GIFs of these dirty pitches on Twitter (Thank you @PitchingNinja and @PitcherList) causes fans to wonder how any hitter is able to make contact.
Pitchers and catchers are starting to report to Spring Training, so why not look at some of the dirtiest, filthiest, nastiest pitches that we see on a day-to-day basis?
Top Fastball Options
There are plenty of fastballs that run up the radar gun. But a few really stood out based on movement and the amount of swings and misses that they generate.
Aroldis Chapman‘s Fastball
I mean, this one is pretty obvious.
Jose Alvarado’s Two-Seam Fastball
A young gun in Tampa, Alvarado’s two-seamer runs up to about 100 miles per hour (MPH) and boy does it tail.
Kenley Jansen’s Cutter
Kenley Jansen‘s pitch is the pinnacle of cut fastballs in the MLB at the moment. Pray for left-handed batters’ bats. But for right-handers, good luck touching the ball with that movement.
Jordan Hicks’s Sinker
Talking about young guns, John Hicks might as well have a cannon attached to his right shoulder. His sinking fastball runs up to as high as 104 MPH.
Josh Hader’s Fastball
The hair, the arm angle, the deception, the velocity, the movement; Josh Hader has it all.
Top Curveball Options
What makes the curveball so fun is the speed differentiation. Just in the names listed you see some guys throw it around 70 MPH and others throw it around 82-85 MPH.
Clayton Kershaw’s 12-6 Curveball
It is the pitch that Kershaw is widely known for. The speed differentiation that he creates makes it extremely tough for hitters to time him up, and that his 12-6 breaker is one of the best pitches in the MLB.
Blake Snell‘s Curveball
Another young Tampa Bay Ray, the former Cy Young Winner prides himself on his curveball. It generates a ton of swings and misses, and he’s going to need those swings and misses playing the Yankees this year.
Craig Kimbrel‘s Knuckle-Curveball
It is hard, it moves a lot, and it is the reason Kimbrel has become one of the best closers of all time.
Zack Greinke‘s Eephus-Type Curveball
Talking about speed differentiation, Greinke’s curveball is slow as slow can be. It rarely tops 70 MPH, but like Kershaw’s big breaker, speed is not needed for this pitch to be successful.
Top Slider Options
Some of the best slider options are the kings of swing and miss. These guys throw it hard and generate a lot of break on my favorite pitch to watch.
Chris Sale’s Slider
Another candidate for the best pitch in the MLB, Sale’s slider has enough depth, lateral movement, and speed for a hitter to spin around like a ballerina.
Adam Ottavino‘s Slider
Similar to Hader, Ottavino’s arm slot is a key piece of what makes him successful. That arm slot is integral to making that slider as tough as it is.
Jacob DeGrom‘s Slider
Speed. That’s what DeGrom’s slider gives you. He can run it up to around 90 MPH, and for hitters, that has to be a nightmare to differentiate from his fastball, and just when they think they got it, boom, lateral movement to make you swing and miss. There’s a reason DeGrom is the cream of the crop when it comes to pitching in the MLB, and this pitch is a reason why.
Max Scherzer‘s Slider
The arm slot, the intensity, the different colored-eyes? Scherzer can pretty much be described as crazy. His slider can also be described as crazy. Have you seen how much this thing moves?
Top Changeup Options
One of the most under-appreciated pitches in the MLB is the changeup. It emulates the movement of a fastball, but at the right speed differential, batters can really struggle hitting against it.
Kyle Hendricks‘s Changeup
Hendricks’s prized pitch is his changeup. Combine his ability to manipulate the movement and his ability to locate the pitch and you get one of the best pitches in all of the MLB.
Luis Castillo‘s Changeup
A young pitcher in Cincinnati, you may not have heard of Luis Castillo, but you are about to! Not only can he run up his fastball to around 95 MPH, but he has one of the best changeups in the MLB.
Cole Hamels‘s Changeup
Hamels’s best days may be behind him, but he still has not lost his touch for his changeup. Running it away from right handed batters has been an extremely successful pitch throughout his entire career.
Anibal Sanchez‘s Split-Changeup
Another Washington National, Sanchez has seen a bit of a revamp in his career and it partially due to the success of his changeup. Whether it is swings and misses or soft contact, Sanchez generates both with the usage of this devastating pitch.
Top Splitter Options
Due to the lack of knuckleballers in the MLB currently, another pitch option could be a splitter. Two pitchers immediatley stood out once I decided to look at the splitter.
Masahiro Tanaka‘s Splitter
Shohei Ohtani‘s Splitter
My Choice for the Ultimate Five Pitch Arsenal
- Kenley Jansen’s Cutter
- Jose Alvarado’s Two-Seam Fastball
- Max Scherzer’s Slider
- Kyle Hendricks’s Changeup
- Craig Kimbrel’s Knuckle-Curveball
For me, it is all about movement and velocity. Each one of these pitches have exactly that. Combining Jansen’s cutter with Alvarado’s wicked two-seam fastball and you have a One-Two Punch that is tough on either right handed bats or left. Throw in Scherzer’s slider and hitter’s heads might explode trying to predict what is coming. In his prime, Kimbrel’s knuckle-curveball was an all-time great pitch, but even today we see hitters whiff at it. Finally, Hendricks’s changeup rounds out my arsenal. The movement and ability to spot that pitch is what Hendricks prides himself on.
What Would Your Arsenal Look Like? Who Did I Miss?
Let us know! I stuck to current pitchers but if we wanted to open up the conversation to all-time then we might be here the rest of 2020 trying to pick the best five.
Join in on the discussion on Twitter. What is your pitch arsenal going to look like?
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