Open Thread: Baseball’s nastiest pitches


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.

Categories : Open Thread


  1. Salty Buggah says:

    Chris Henry might have passed away. Conflicting reports though.

  2. Drew says:

    What’s with this new Rating System?

  3. Hey ZZ says:

    Have to sign one guy to a 2 year deal: Damon or Nick Johnson?

  4. Salty Buggah says:

    “see ball, pretend ball exists four inches away, swing at air, hopefully hit ball.”


  5. Salty Buggah says:

    rated 5.0 by 5 people? Awesome

  6. Salty Buggah says:

    Yanks discussing one year deal with Nick Johnson.

    (Man, I keep citing (usually) untrustworthy sources today.)

  7. Neon Noodle says:

    This is a repeat from the last thread, but fits in nicely here and I want to preface it this time:

    Preface: I do not believe Rivera warrants a CY Young nor an “Arbitrary 10 Year Period MVPitcher award”. I’m honestly interested in knowing who people would pick.

    Begin reprint:
    Ok, here’s a semi-hypothetical situation.

    You are tied up and held at gun point in the 3rd row behind home plate.

    The guy holding the gun let’s you chose one pitcher to throw to one batter. If the batter reaches first base safely, he shoots you. (New for this post!) The pitcher knows what’s happening and does not want you to die.

    Who do you choose? (choices can be current or historical)

    What would you call the award given to the pitcher who you choose, ya know, assuming he saves your life.

    I would call it the “Mo Save Me Award”

  8. According to MLBTR, Carlos Delgado was supposed to be playing in the Puerto Rican winter league beginning in “mid-December” to demonstrate his health to scouts.

    I can’t find info. Is he there yet? Any stats? Any scouting reviews?

    • Salty Buggah says:

      Anonymous scout: “Delgado looks ready to mash. Maybe better than ever before. I’ve never seem him in such shape before.”

      A rival Executive: “The Mets better resign him or else they will be sorry. Whichever team signs him will get a huge bargain”

      /Anonymous scout was…ME

  9. Keanu Reeves says:

    You know what’s really incredible?

    The fact that Ichiro has over 2,000 hits in 9 seasons. He is absolutely unreal.

  10. Drew says:

    Okay. So we sign Johnson and say Adios to JD. Is Johnson our 2 hitter? I think I say yes.

  11. Manimal says:

    bahahahahahhahaha, somehow when i pressed on the link I anticipated that he would be the worst pitcher of the 2000′s

  12. Hey Mike, where would you put Aroldis Chapman on our prospect ranking if he’s signs with us?

    My guess is #2, but I wanted your take.

  13. I eagerly await the thread entitled:

    “Open Thread: Baseball’s nastiest bitches
    By Mike Axisa”

  14. Salty Buggah says:

    @rebecca_glass & @mikeaxisa are one of the Yankees Twitter Personalities for but Ben and Joe aren’t. Odd (though there aren’t many they chose for the Yanks anyway)

  15. Tank the Frank says:

    Seriously, how many dance/singing competitions can be on television at one time?

    It actually starts to make me angry when I think about it…then I smoke a joint and get reeeeaaally into one of those shows. Those are intense competitions when you’re high.

  16. Raymond says:

    The author of this post is on the fast track to membership in the BBWAA, possibly a regular spot on ESPN, and definitely appointment to one of Bud Selig’s Hall of Fame committees. They’ll all love his statement that Rivera is ‘just a reliever.’ Those words on a big site like this help cement players’ images forever. This of course ridiculously mischaracterizes the long career of the greatest relief pitcher in history. Many have stated this who have been around a lot longer than this terribly hip site has. Others have said he’s the best player–pitcher and player–of his era. But there’s no money in making that kind of statement.

  17. Keanu Reeves says:

    My final project for my media class is due tomorrow morning. I’m designing a website on dreamweaver about Jackie Robinson and his impact on baseball as well as sports/society in general.

    If anyone knows of any interesting Robinson links I’d love to see them. I’m trying to put the final touches on tonight and so I’m looking for some cool/informative stuff to add.


    I have a feeling the Sox are going to have a MONSTER off season. They’ve already added Lackey and Cameron, and I think both moves set the stage for future trades. The minute I saw the Lowell deal, I thought they were making roster space for a big 1B trade for either Adrian Gonzalez or Miguel Cabrera. If they can land Gonzalez, his contract is so cheap that I’ll bet they’re a dark horse candidate for Matt Holliday as well.

    Imagine the 2010 Sox adding Cammy, Adrian Gonzalez and Matt Holliday with a rotation of Beckett-Lester-Lackey-Matsuzaka-Wakefield. That’s fucking scary, and they would leapfrog the Yanks if Theo pulls it off. Cash needs another pitcher (Sheets/Wang) and a real LF (Damon) to stay ahead, and even then it might not be enough.

    • Teix is the Man says:

      They don’t need to stay ahead, they just won the World Series!

    • pat says:

      Yeah, then next offseason Beckett is going to demand to be paid more than Lackey, Wake will be 46, Cammy will be 38 and they won’t have dick on the farm for another 2 years.

    • They’ve already added Lackey and Cameron, and I think both moves set the stage for future trades.

      Hey, Nostra, remember earlier in the thread when you said that the fact that Mark DeRosa would get a longer contract for more money than Nick Johnson was because teams think he’s more valuable and thus, more worth it?

      Mike Cameron got a contract that will probably be half as long and a fourth as large as the one Jason Bay will get.

      You and I both agree that the Sox made a smart move picking Cameron over Bay. I’d surmise we’d agree that the Mets are making a dumb move picking Bay over numerous other options, including Cameron.

      That’s why your above statement is wrong. Someone will give Mark DeRosa a bigger contract than Nick Johnson not because he’s more valuable and thus, worth it, but because they think he’s more valuable… but they’re WRONG in that estimation.

      The Red Sox: Smart
      The Mets: Dumb

      Giving Johnson a smallish, one year deal: Smart
      Giving DeRosa a larger, multi-year deal: Dumb

    • Tank the Frank says:

      I could realistically see them getting AGon but not Holliday and certainly not both. Matt Holliday would put them way over their budget. They have money…but they’re not the Yankees. Their payroll is already approaching an all-time high and is closing in on the $170 mil mark where they’ll have to pay luxury tax.

      Plus, a trade for AGon would take Buchholz, Ellsbury + at least one, probably two top prospects. Losing Buchholz would make it even more important that they re-sign Beckett (or another FA pitcher), using up even more payroll. Add to the fact thet they’ll also need to shore up SS and CF (two very important positions) in the next two years with something more long-term…and more talented. We all know Theo covets a certain star SS. Not to mention whether or not VMart can catch full time…they need to either extend him or look for yet another FA at catcher after 2010.

      I think if they get Agon they are at pretty even footing with the Yankees. But even that’s a long ways away.

      • Ive heard the same thing but do you have an up to date payroll on them? Fangraphs has them at 123.5 (Yanks at 171.9) The Yankee number sounds right to me, but maybe the Sox number hasn’t been updated yet.;month=0

        In any case, they’re 46.5 mil below 170 number, and even if that doesn’t include Lackey+Cammy the number still goes up by around 25 mil. Still 21.5 to play with, and A-Gon only makes 4.75. Plus you have to subtract the salaries of the players going to San Diego. Still 17-18 mil of room for Holliday.

    • Hughesus Cristo says:

      Even if you weren’t completely off the rails with your paranoia, the description of re-signing Wang as “adding a pitcher” is ridiculous.

  19. Jake H says:

    From Frankie in his chat today.

    Comment From JustinJustin: ]
    What’s your take on Romine? I heard some negatives on his defense but BA has him 2nd for NYY. What’s your MLB projection for him?

    Wednesday December 16, 2009 3:10 Justin
    3:11 Frankie Piliere: I think he has the raw tools to be a better than average defender. Young catchers have more growing pains than any other position. Not only are they developing but they are helping develop young pitchers, so it’s not an easy balancing act. I think people mistakenly evaluate them against veteran filler catchers in the minors. Romine does make some mistakes that I saw but the raw skills are there. Polish will come

  20. Accent Shallow says:

    One of the previous posts of the site had brought up Posada as a Hall of Famer. I was skeptical, due to his low counting stats, but Posada doesn’t compare that unfavorably to the other Hall of Famers. A few more seasons, and he’ll pass 1000 RBIs and 1000 runs. He’s not going to get to 2000 hits, but he may get to 300 bombs if he hangs on long enough.


  21. 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.

    Holy Shit.


    Damn! 12-16 mil for the lefty butt-shaker? Amazing.

    • Salty Buggah says:

      Wow. If the Orioles’prospects can play well next year, they might compete a bit. It wont be enough probably but damn, they’ve made some decent moves this winter. This is overpaying (and kinda stupid) for sure but hey, it improves the team.

      • JMK THE OVERSHARE's Milton Bradley Fat Park Factor says:

        Terrible use of payroll. Their player development system looks pretty good but then they trip over themselves with dumb, expensive reliever signings. Figures.


        /Clay Davis’d

      • Januz says:

        There is no question they are overpaying. The problem is no one wants to go to Baltimore unless they overpay, so they have to do just that, or forget about anyone halfway decent signing there.
        I will say, the Birds are finally starting to turn things around, I could see them escaping the cellar (Ahead of Toronto).

  23. ultimate913 says:

    ESPN reports that the Yankees are talking to Nick Johnson for a 1 year deal but neither RAB or MLBTR has reported it yet. What’s up with that?

    • JMK THE OVERSHARE's Milton Bradley Fat Park Factor says:

      ESPN has such luminaries as Jemele Hill, John Kruck, and Skip Bayless. Just sayin’. But seriously, I can’t find the ESPN link, but some commenters on here have touched on it.

      Not sure if there’s any merit to the story.

      • steve (different one) says:

        there’s a link upthread with a quote from his agent.

        doesn’t mean it will get done, but it has merit.

        • JMK THE OVERSHARE's Milton Bradley Fat Park Factor says:

          It’s the NY Post. Yeah…um…not sure that qualifies as a reputable source. Anyway, if it’s verified as a story, sure. Until then, I don’t put any stock in it.

          • steve (different one) says:

            yes, i agree that the Post isn’t a great source, but there is a direct quote from his agent.

            i’d say there is “merit” to the story that the Yankees are talking to NJ b/c his agent is confirming it.

            • JMK THE OVERSHARE's Milton Bradley Fat Park Factor says:

              Well, of course they’ve talked. They’ve talked to Bay, Lackey and all kinds of other guys. To me, it doesn’t mean too much.

              It’s the Post that say a deal is in the works for a 1-year, incentive-heavy deal. They mention nothing of a source. They just say it.

              Until I see something other then “we had some tea this morning with Cashman,” I don’t bite. That’s all.

      • Evil Empire says:

        I hate Jemele Hill.

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