Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Nastiest Pitch in Baseball for 2011

The 2010 baseball season was the closest we have come to The Year of the Pitcher since 1968, when it was custom to win more than 20 games, and batting averages just barely slid into the .200's.

In 2010, it was crazy how many no-hitters and perfect games were thrown.

We, as fans, are blessed to be witnessing such talents on the mound these days. Not just talent, but young talent.

I'm talking guys like Tim Lincecum, Felix Hernandez, Ubaldo Jimenez, David Price, etc. The list goes on and on.

But what all these pitchers have is what makes them unique. They have that one signature pitch.

It could be the one they rely on to get strike one, or the one they rely on to get strike three.

The bottom line is every one of those signature pitches are straight filthy.

5. Cliff Lee's Curveball

Cliff Lee is a phenomenon these days, just look at his paycheck. He is also apart of one of the greatest pitching rotations ever assembled. He carries five pitches in his arsenal, but what shot out to me was his curveball.

You can call it a knuckle curve or just a straight curveball, but this pitch is a main reason for Lee's success on the mound.

Lee's curveball is thrown around 5% of the time and usually anywhere in the mid-70's, which accents his mid-90's fastball. It has huge downward movement and also creeps in on right-handed hitters.

The best thing about Lee is his accuracy. He works quick and throws strikes, always getting strike one. You can attribute that to some of his curveball's success as batters are much more apt to chase curveballs in the dirt or out of the zone.

Lee's accuracy with his curveball makes it one of the best in the game today. Pair that with the fact that his curve ball and fastball come out of the same arm slot and you can see why he is as desired by teams as he is.

4. Roy Halladay's Cutter

The man with a no-hitter and perfect game in the same season has got to have his best pitch up at the top of the list, right?

It's definitely up to debate.

But his cutter is becoming one of the most dominant pitches in the game.

He does an array of other pitches in his arsenal to baffle hitters, but the cutter may be his best.

The pitch comes in on right-handers and tails away from lefties with such a whippy look that it is hard not to get caught up in it. He can also throw it anywhere from 88-93 MPH.

They don't call him Doc Halladay for nothing. He is constantly sawing off batters' knuckles with that cutter that never seems to find the barrel of the bat.

3. Ubaldo Jimenez's 2-Seam Fastball

His quirky wind-up is enough to throw the batter off. Reaching into his back pocket, as though it seems, only to fire a 95+ MPH fastball on the corner with zero effort.

But of Jimenez's two fastball he carries, the two-seamer seems to stand out.

It averages around 96 MPH on the gun, the highest since velocities began being recorded, and can be thrown with precision. Whether it is in the dirt for the strike out or at the knees with the same result, Jimenez is as accurate as it gets with the pitch.

It has insane tailing movement. It moves inside on right-handers and tails away from lefties.

But what makes it most effective is that it is both his strike one pitch and also his strike three pitch.

2. Tim Lincecum's Change-Up

Lincecum's change-up is a major reason why he has had so much success in just four full seasons in the MLB. Oh, and two Cy Young's before the age of 25.

His change-up dips, dives, and is so much slower than any other pitch he throws. It will dance straight down with an almost splitter movement. In fact, most would call his change-up a splitter because of the action that is on that pitch.

What benefits Lincecum's change-up most is the way he sets it up.

He has a low to mid-90's fastball, as well as a 12-6 curveball, which are both top 20 pitches in their own right.

Lincecum is most effective when he can keep his change-up low.

Lucky for Giants fans, that happens most of the time.

1. Mariano Rivera's Cut Fastball

They know it is coming, yet still can't hit it. That is an understatement for a pitcher who throws the same pitch 90% of the time.

But that is the motto for Rivera's cutter that has been daring hitters for years.

The ball comes in on lefties and slides horizontally away for righties at around 93-95 MPH with such a late cut that batters simply have no chance of making solid contact with the ball.

And if they do, it's not going far. Rarely does Rivera's cutter find the barrel of the bat.

For righties, the majority of Rivera's cutters find the end of the bat.

For as long Rivera has been doing it, and as long as players have known about the pitch, the end of the bat may be the only way to hit his cut fastball.

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