None nastier than Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel throws a nasty breaking ball. He grips it like a spike slider (maybe) and the ball moves like a curveball (sort of). It’s a relatively short curveball, but one moving upwards of 87 mph when it leaves Kimbrel’s hand. The combination of speed and drop are unparalleled in the major leagues today.

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Checkout the discussion and a picture of the grip in the forum at Brooks Baseball. The label is not as important as the key characteristics—speed and drop—when looking for comparisons to Kimbrel’s offering. The first comparison is flame-thrower Henry Rodriguez.

Rodriguez threw a very similar breaking ball to Kimbrel’s in 2011, averaging roughly the same drop (40 inches) but not as fast (84 mph).

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Close, but no cigar. As a matter of fact, if you look for any pitch that averages more than 82 mph and dropped more than 38 inches on the way to home plate, you’d fine a decent list but no one in Kimbrel’s exact neighborhood. If you go back past 2011, some sliders show-up (Brett Anderson, Billy Wagner), but otherwise this is a list of curveballs and their throwers. And, as it turns out, Mitch Talbot appears to be our co-runner up, if you sort by speed.

Fast (82+ mph) and dropping (38+ in.), average values 2011

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Pitcher drop (in.) mph sweep (in.) #
Craig Kimbrel 40 87 8 404
Mitch Talbot 40 84 9 141
Henry Rodriguez 40 84 8 249
Luis Valdez 39 83 3 32
A.J. Burnett 42 83 7 1079
Bobby Jenks 50 83 7 13
Kevin Jepsen 43 83 7 28
Mark Melancon 43 83 4 297
Felix Hernandez 48 82 9 518
Juan Gutierrez 44 82 8 112
Brad Lincoln 43 82 13 135
Joe Nathan 40 82 6 153
Scott Linebrink 44 82 3 136
Grant Balfour 40 82 6 57
Kyle Drabek 41 82 5 124
David Robertson 49 82 10 249
Brandon Morrow 42 82 5 157
Jonathan Sanchez 42 82 5 329
Nick Masset 48 82 9 252
John Axford 46 82 4 289
Heath Bell 42 82 6 343
Fernando Salas 41 82 3 225
Evan Meek 40 82 10 94

Note: all pitch classifications are our own and do not come from Gameday or BIS feeds


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Ben Pritchett
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Ben Pritchett

Truly great, Harry… Just curious, who has the largest drop on any particular pitch?

Harry Pavlidis
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Harry Pavlidis

Here’s a partial list, min. 500 curves 2010-1

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/dispatch_article/the-anticipated-return-of-adam-wainwrights-curveball/

The biggest drop is probably Wakefield’s curveball, since it goes so darn slow, but it doesn’t make the list.

scott
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scott

I don’t know how to check it out but would Aroldis Chapman come close? I’ve seen some nasty pitches from him.

Lee [ Cowboy
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Lee [ Cowboy

I switched channels on the tv many times last year just to watch Kimbrel pich the 9th inning. He is electric!

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