THE LINEUP # 6: The 10 Best Pitches In Major League Baseball, Today.

Posted: June 2, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
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There’s a world of nasty pitches in Major League Baseball. Unlike getting dunked on or getting ran over trying to make a tackle, one of the most embarrassing moments in all of sports doesn’t require any contact at all. However, the struggle to make it with a bat can be just as funny-awkward as either of those first two go downs.

The right pitch can be the ultimate humbler for even the most professional hitter (if you think back to the All-Star game two years ago, the #2 pitch on this list broke Albert Pujols down to his knees almost….but don’t skip ahead, wait for it). The type that is so nasty that you can see the quit in a guy’s eyes when it’s halfway there. Something that so disgusting that if a swing is raised against it, it more closely resembles what the receiving half of a Mike Tyson hook looked like in ’87.

The rule in baseball is to set up your pitches, take them out strategically and go for the kill. While nobody is exempt from that rule, these 10 pitches below could be thrown every time out and would still have guys not knowing exactly what to do (and one of them actually is). The scariest thing in sports is when you know exactly what’s coming, yet still can’t do anything about it. Here are 10 perfect examples of that (with a bit a video to prove it as well).


10. Johan Santana’s change-up: When he was younger, his fastball was snapping in the mid 90’s and he didn’t need much else to be a major problem. However, when he added this hopping slow ball that he threw with the same motion and look, but around 10 mph slower, folks might as well had two strikes when they came to bat already.

Before injuries slowed him, this change was the primary weapon in racking up five consecutive 200 strikeout years.

9. Cliff Lee’s cutter: It breaks in on the hands on left handers, and gives them fits trying to put it in play. However it may be nastier to face from the other side of the plate, where either gets them reaching to hit it straight into the ground, or just looking at it because it breaks outside late and keeps them looking at it like an art museum exhibit, like Cameron from Ferris Bueller.

8. Clayton Kershaw’s curveball: Kershaw has two main things working for him. He’s a rare truly hard throwing lefty and he has a pitch that hitters are worried about seeing before he unleashes it in this curve. His fastball is so good that he can usually save this as his knockout pitch, but the scariest thing about it is still developing…yet already this nasty.

7. Justin Verlander’s fastball: This is a simple one, but can also raise questions too. “How can a guy’s fastball be considered a great pitch? Everybody has one.” Well, I can count on one hand how many guys have one that is still as deadly in the 8th inning as the first, and is still checking in at 100 mph then as well. Verlander dabbles in other pitches time to time, but has fastballed his way to two no-hitters in his first six years.

6. Tim Lincecum’s curveball: This could be basically anything he let’s go from his hand, but let’s list the curveball just because of how it’s almost comical how it frustrates Major League hitters into taking tee ball-style swings at it. His twisting delivery hides the pitch until the last second, and it comes in looking just like his fastball or change-up until the last few seconds when it flashes across the whole plate. It’s what he usually goes to for strikeouts, and considering he’s led the National League in those the last three years, this will do for standing as his signature offering.

Few pitchers can dominate with one pitch the way Verlander does. But few can throw 100 mph for 100 pitches either.

5. Adam Wainwright’s curveball: You won’t be seeing this one this season with Waino out getting his arm worked on all summer, but don’t forget about how he’s hooked his way into two top 2 finishes in the Cy Young race the last two years with it. With his 6’6 frame and ridiculous accuracy, he drops this hammer down from what looks like about 60 feet in the air, and by the time it breaks guys are usually already stepping out the box pissed at themselves.

4. Zack Greinke’s slider: He throws his fastball in the mid 90’s, and then breaks out this “off speed” option only about 5 mph slower, so peace to any hitter who’s trying to decide what to wait on or what to take their hacks at here. No wonder several American League hitters called this baseball’s best pitch a few years ago while he used it to land the ’09 Cy Young. No doubt National Leaguers are now considering joining with that opinion as well.

3. Felix Hernandez’s fastball: Both his curve and change-up could easily be listed in this top 10 separately as well; however it’s his fastball, or balls, that take the lead simply because he throws both with equal ease and location. His primary heat touches 100 mph and can own the top of the strike zone, while his next second “slower” fastball stays in the mid 90’s and owns the bottom of the zone. He can win on some days just throwing two essentially basic pitches, but they are anything but that when coming from him.

With a two fastballs he can throw with pinpoint precision, that never stay straight, it's almost wrong he has any other tricks in his bag.

2. Roy Halladay’s sinker: I’m not exactly sure what to call this pitch. It looks like a slider sometimes, but falls off the Earth like a split-finger fastball. So for the purpose of listing it, I’ll call it a sinker, which is what it does with more heft than any other pitchers offering in the game. It stays dead straight before darting down towards the hitters knees at the last second, all while staying a strike the whole time. And what’s most deadly about it is that Doc somehow makes it move in and out with the same movement on both sides of the plate. But at least I’m not alone in being lost on figuring this thing out, his no-hitter followed by a Playoff perfect game, Cy Young National League debut proves that his opponents can’t either.

1. Mariano Rivera’s cutter: This isn’t just the best pitch in baseball now, it can make claim to being the best ever due to the fact it’s really all Mo has ever thrown, yet nobody can figure it out after 17 years. In career that has seen 10 seasons his ERA finishing under 2.00 and that is approaching 600 saves, he has thrown this brutally deceptive, smooth breaking fastball all the way to a certain place in Cooperstown. It works on both sides of the plate, and even right down the mid of it. It’s so good that it actually breaks the basic rule of left-handed batters hitting better against righties: lefties hit points lower against him for his career.

Mariano's one pitch is so good that it's made him an All-Star 11 times and sealed 5 World Titles on it's own. Nuff said.

For more on this, base to base and strike to strike, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

  1. Oates says:

    I definitely agree w/ #1.

    The thing about Verlander that is even more amazing is that it doesnt look like he puts much torque on his body when he throws the 100 MPH fasatball. Most power pitchers tend to have a very violent delivery that leads to knee & elbow problems from all of that torque but his delivery comes off very smooth. Only wish he wasnt in my division!

  2. Yeah, his trigger is crazy deceptive and when he’s got his slider going off that thing it’s easy to see why he’s got two no-no’s already.

    Halladay’s motion is crazy deceptive too in the same way, but he lives in the bottom of the zone with his stuff.

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