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The Best Pitches of 2011: Other

Read the rest of the Best Pitches series: fastball, slider, changeup, curve.

The final installment of our Best Pitches series is “other” pitches, meaning not (four-seam) fastballs, changeups, curveballs or sliders. A couple names pop up on this list who have been on one of the other lists, which exemplifies just how impressive those pitchers actually are. Another pitch is one that every person would expect to be on this list, which has been the case for the past 15 years.

There were a lot of pitches to choose from for this article, but I went to find the nastiest sinkers, cutters, splitters, knuckelballs, or screwballs that I could find. Below is the criteria used in Carson’s original post, along with the four pitches I included. Also, I broke the pitches down between relief pitchers and starters, doing two for each.

Pitch Avg Velo Avg SwStrk% Avg Called Strk%
Fastball (FA) 91.7 6.31% 19.78%
2-seam Fastball (FT) 90.8 5.35% 19.58%
Sinker (SI) 90.3 5.15% 19.49%
Cut Fastball (FC) 88.4 8.40% 16.53%
Curve (CU) 76.7 10.43% 19.39%
Slider (SL) 83.5 14.31% 15.79%
Changeup (CH) 82.6 13.37% 11.28%


Roy Halladay

PITCHf/x: 15.5%, 83.2 mph, -7.1 H-move, -0.6 V-move
Results: 24.4% SwStrk, 72.8% Strk, 10.7 wSF, 2.00 wSF/C
Comments: Halladay only added his splitter as he began pitching in Philadelphia. In just his second year using the pitch, he set a career high in strikeouts, strikeout rate, and FIP. PITCHf/x on FanGraphs labels it a changeup, which it can easily be confused as. However, Brooks Baseball and BIS both label it a split-finger. He changed the grip on the pitch before the 2010 season and the results have probably made him a better pitcher, which is difficult to fathom. Prior to developing the splitter, Halladay did not really have an off-speed pitch for left-handed hitters. In his career, according to Brooks Baseball, he has thrown just 380 changeups. In the past two years alone, he has thrown 1,031 splitters. As a result, Halladay set a career high in strikeouts in 2010 and bested that mark again the next season.

Halladay struck out 14 on April 24 against the Padres, matching a career high. He struck four batters out with his splitter, which the announcer miscategorizes as a  changeup. Take a look at the :13 second mark, :20, :43, and 1:50 for Halladay’s incredible splitter.


Dan Haren

PITCHf/x: 48.0%, 85.3 mph, 2.2 H-move, 3.9 V-move
Results: 13.8% SwStrk, 71.3% Strk, 30.5 wFC, 1.69 wCT/C
Comments: Dan Haren’s go-to pitch led him to the lowest walk rate and FIP of his career. Destroying the rest of the competition in terms of cutter pitch value, the only pitcher within half of Haren’s total was Chris Carpenter at 19.0. Haren relies on the pitch more than most, as he threw no other pitch over 20% of the time. While he has many different variations of his fastball, the movement and command he has over his cutter makes him a strikeout-to-walk ratio machine. Only Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay have better K/BB rates since 2008, which is pretty great company. While Rivera is the king of the cutter, Haren takes the nod for best cutter for starting pitchers.

Haren’s cutter is featured in this video at :30, :40, :47, and in forcing a ground ball at :50. It looks similar to a slider but the spin is a bit tighter and moves a bit less horizontally than most sliders.


Mariano Rivera

PITCHf/x: 85.2%, 91.5 mph, 2.6 H-move, 7.4 V-move
Results: 8.9 SwStrk, 71.0% Strk, 12.2 wCT, 2.04 wCT/C
Comments: Age has yet to affect Rivera, leaving me and others to believe that he may be some type of cyborg. His strike rate of 71% and his called-strike rate of 20.9% are both above their respective league averages of 66% and 16.9%. While he does not strike out as many batters as the traditional dominant closer does, he forces weak contact and is able to keep the ball in the park. Every batter knows Rivera will throw them cutters almost exclusively, but there has been no formula developed over the past 15 years to beat his offering. Rivera finished with the third highest cutter pitch value, which includes starting pitchers. He has not just maintained an effective cut fastball, he still has arguably the best cutter in the league. At his age, not many pitchers have ever been able to say that their version of a pitch is still comparable with anyone else’s in the league.

Below is the video of Rivera’s record setting save number 602. There is no need to focus on times in Rivera outings, as the he throws his cutter on almost every single pitch.


Jonny Venters

PITCHf/x:  73.1%, 94.9 mph, 9.5 H-move, 2.5 V-move
Results: 11.8% SwStrk, 61.8% Strk, 13.1 wSL, 1.36 wSL/C
Comments: Throwing the pitch on over 73% of his offerings, Venters relies on his sinker heavily. While his deadly slider made Chris Cwik’s list, his sinker is the pitch that batters must focus on in every single plate appearance. Hitters swing through his sinker, which is thrown in the mid-90s, much more than the 4.8% swinging-strike rate of the average pitcher. Venters had the highest ground-ball rate of any pitcher in baseball, minimum 50 innings pitched, at 72.5%. His sinker was a big reason for that, and actually had the second highest pitch value of any sinker in the league, which is awfully impressive for a reliever. What is especially interesting about Venters’ sinker is that he consistently throws it in the same area of the strike zone. While his command is not the best, his movement and target force a ton of ground balls while his velocity induces many swings and misses.

Venters records all three outs via the sinker in this video, though the first pitch shown is hit rather hard by Jayson Werth. The next two are mid-90s sinkers that result in strikeouts. The pitch is almost unfair at times, especially when you consider that his secondary offering made the list of top sliders as well.

Other pitches of note:

Cliff Lee’s two seamer
Doug Fister’s two seamer
Tim Hudson’s sinker
Chris Carpenter’s cutter
Jon Lester’s cutter