We all talk about how a guy has nasty stuff, whether it’s a lively 98 mph heater or knee-buckling curve or a changeup that seems to stand still in midair. As filthy as some of these pitches look on TV or in person, we now have the tools to evaluatem in a more scientific way. Using the magic of PitchFX, Tom Haberstroch (ESPN Insider only, sorry) determined what the nastiest (and meatballiest) pitches in baseball were over the last few seasons. Of the three best, two come from Yankee hurlers…
Mariano Rivera, cutter
This isn’t a lifetime achievement award; Rivera’s cutter is about as consistently good and destructive as any pitch anyone has seen. Somehow, the pitch has showed zero signs of age. The 92-to-94 mph cutter still treats lefties’ bats like dry twigs with right-to-left movement suitable for a slider and velocity more appropriate for a fastball. It’s not “see ball, hit ball” as much as it is “see ball, pretend ball exists four inches away, swing at air, hopefully hit ball.” Simply put, the human brain cannot react quickly enough to adjust for the lateral movement. The pitch’s most dominant stretch of the Pitch f/x era came in July of this past season, when Rivera threw the patented cutter 141 times and didn’t give up a single hit, with only two balls leaving the infield.
CC Sabathia, slider, 2008
Sabathia’s slider was an absolute beast in 2008 but of a slightly different breed than Randy Johnson’s because it relied heavily on horizontal movement instead of overpowering speed. In 2008, his slider gave lefties fits by bending an average of about six inches toward the outer half of the plate at 80 to 82 mph.
How nasty was it?
During a stretch of eight starts in June and July, not a single lefty mustered a hit off Sabathia’s slider despite swinging at it 61 times.
Sure, CC wasn’t in pinstripes in 2008, but I’m counting it anyway. The other pitch to crack the top three was the 2009 version of Tim Lincecum’s changeup. The worst pitches came from a variety of junkballers; Jeff Suppan, Livan Hernandez, and the like.
Elsewhere on the four-letter, Jerry Crasnick wrote a puff piece declaring Mariano Rivera the most valuable pitcher of the decade while simultaneously declaring Sidney Ponson the the worst. I know Mo’s great, but come on, dude’s just a reliever. Why not vote a reliever the worst pitcher of a decade? Because they aren’t that important, and Sir Sidney hurt his team more as a starter. Why doesn’t that apply for the best pitcher as well?
Anyway, you guys know what’s up. The Nets are taking on Utah, while the Rangers and Islander kick off a home-and-home. Here’s your open thread. Treat it like you’d want it to treat you.