The Nastiest Pitches in Baseball
I love it when a pitcher executes a pitch in the exact way he wants. It’s so satisfying, cool, and nasty. Twitter explodes, top 10 highlights come out, and you’re just waiting on the edge of your seat for it to happen again. Since this is such a satisfying and fun part of baseball, I wanted to see which pitches were the best in baseball at delivering that “nasty” factor. So without further ado, here are 25 of the nastiest pitches in baseball.
For this list, I delineated by Starting Pitchers (10), Relief Pitchers (10), and also threw in Position Players (5) to have some fun. While the criteria I used to create this list is relatively subjective, I still used a variety of metrics to guide my thought process in choosing the nastiest pitches. For reference, I used the following “per pitch type” metrics: Baseball Savant’s xwOBA allowed, Baseball Prospectus’ Whiff/Swing, Fangraphs’ H and V movements, and Evan Alvarez’s “eye test.” Within these metrics (some better than others), I set a minimum of ~100 pitches thrown to help with sample size and remove any outliers. Please note that this is not a 1 through 10 ranking, but simply a non-exhaustive list of filthy pitches.
Good to go? Awesome, let’s get into it.
First up, the Starting Pitchers:
1.) Shohei Ohtani’s Splitter
Shohei Ohtani has taken the baseball world by storm, and rightly so, as he already has one of the best pitches in baseball. Fun fact: his splitter has nearly half the spin rate of his other pitches, which results in an extreme drop out of the strike zone. Check out the other metrics below, along with a filthy video of him striking out Dixon Machado (who’s rocking the PF Flyers, by the way).
- xwOBA Allowed: .159 (1st among starters, 3rd in MLB)
- Whiff / Swing: 55.8% (1st among starters, 4th in MLB)
- Percent Thrown: 22.4%
- Average Velocity: 87.3 mph
2.) Blake Snell’s Curveball
Blake Snell had an all-time season in 2018, and his curveball is a huge reason why. He throws it with incredibly sharp break, along with the highest spin rate of his arsenal (2517 rpm). The below video shows him badly fooling Toronto’s Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (courtesy PitcherList).
- xwOBA Allowed: .134 (3rd among starters, 4th in MLB)
- Whiff / Swing: 53.4% (1st among starters, 4th in MLB)
- Percent Thrown: 20.2%
- Average Velocity: 81.3 mph
3.) Justin Verlander’s Curveball
Oh my god, this pitch is dirty. I’m not even going to elaborate much on this one, just check out the metrics and watch this video of a Max Muncy strikeout. Justin Verlander, everyone.
- xwOBA Allowed: .134 (3rd among starters, 4th in MLB, tied with Snell)
- Whiff / Swing: 34.5% (Main use is to tunnel and generate soft contact)
- Percent Thrown: 14.5%
- Average Velocity: 79.5 mph
4.) Stephen Strasburg’s Changeup
This pitch is easily one of the best in all of baseball. Strasburg’s command allows the ball to drop and exhibit arm-side fade, running in towards right handed batters. When the changeup is on, it’s simply unhittable– check it out below.
- xwOBA Allowed: .200 (7th among starters, 17th in MLB)
- Whiff / Swing: 47.1% (2nd among starters, 9th in MLB)
- Percent Thrown: 19.8%
- H-Movement: -9.1 in. (Top 10% in MLB)
5.) Patrick Corbin’s Slider
You probably knew this one was coming. The Washington Nationals’ most recent free agent signing exhibited historic slider metrics during his 2018 breakout season, and boy did he get paid for it. Long story short on Corbin’s slider: he throws it a lot, strikes out a ton, and rarely allows solid contact. His slider’s brilliance is on full display in the video below against Joey Gallo (courtesy Rob Friedman @PitchingNinja).
- xwOBA Allowed: .191 (9th among starters)
- Whiff / Swing: 53.9% (1st among starters, 8th in MLB)
- Percent Thrown: 40.9%
- Average Velocity: 81.7 mph
Patrick Corbin, Sliders to Joey Gallo. 🍔— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 15, 2018
Fairly certain Avila put down signs out of respect for the game…rather than just yelling out to the mound “Hey Corby, throw another slider!” pic.twitter.com/7MJzAZAh47
6.) Aaron Nola’s Two-Seam Fastball
The two-seam fastball is probably my favorite pitch type in all of baseball, which makes me a huge fan of Aaron Nola. Nola loves to paint his two-seamers on the outside of the zone, but truly has the command to throw it anywhere he wants. In the video below, he freezes Ian Desmond for a called strike three.
- xwOBA Allowed: .261 (8th among starters, 15th in MLB)
- H-Movement: -9.7 in. (Top 10% in MLB)
- Average Velocity: 91.4 mph
- Percent Thrown: 13.1%
7.) James Paxton’s Cutter
The newly acquired Yankee may have one of the best pitches in all of baseball with his cutter. As the Yankees continue shifting towards the lowest four-seam fastball usage in the league, James Paxton’s cutter could be a huge reason the Yankees wanted him in pinstripes. In the video below, he strikes out his current teammate, Greg Bird.
- xwOBA Allowed: .171 (1st in MLB)
- Whiff / Swing: 37.2% (4th among starters, 12th in MLB)
- Percent Thrown: 14.4%
- Average Velocity: 89.0 mph
8.) Chris Sale’s Slider
Chris Sale has been throwing his plus slider nearly his entire career, and the dividends have surely paid off. Sale’s slider possesses elite break, making it nearly impossible to hit when he’s on. Dodger fans, you may want to avert your eyes, as the video below shows Sale using his slider on a World Series-winning K against Manny Machado (Courtesy Rob Friedman).
- xwOBA Allowed: .160 (4th among starters, Top 20 in MLB)
- H-Movement: -7.9 in. (Top 5% in MLB)
- Whiff / Swing: 44.5% (17th among starters)
- Percent Thrown: 34.5%
Chris Sale, Disgusting 84mph Slider. 😨😳— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 29, 2018
9.) Jack Flaherty’s Knuckle Curveball
Jack Flaherty just finished up his rookie year, but his knuckle curveball is already among baseball’s elite pitches. Among starters, he falls just inside the top 10 for xwOBA allowed (I combined curve’s and knuckle curves), but the main calling card is the wicked movement that comes with it. See for yourself in the video below where he strikes out the Nationals’ Adam Eaton.
- xwOBA Allowed: .178 (10th among starters)
- H-Movement: 7.8 in. (Top 10% in MLB)
- Whiff / Swing: 47.9% (3rd among starters)
- Percent Thrown: 11.2%
10.) Noah Syndergaard’s Slider
Noah Syndergaard is a velocity freak, and his slider is no different. With its late break and quick zip, Noah can also easily command this pitch to go almost wherever he wants. In the video below, you’ll see him make quick work out of Jesus Aguilar.
- xwOBA Allowed: .200 (16th among starters)
- Average Velocity: 92.0 mph (1st in MLB)
- Whiff / Swing: 45.7% (12th among starters)
- Percent Thrown: 20.9%
Alright, now for the Relief Pitchers:
1.) Adam Ottavino’s Sinker/Two-Seamer
Threw you guys a bit of a curveball here, huh? Bad joke, I’m sorry, but Ottavino’s sinker (or two-seamer, depending on classification) actually performed slightly better than his wicked slider did in 2018. Plus, you all have probably seen his slider a thousand times, so check out his awesome sinker/two-seamer below.
- xwOBA Allowed: .193 (1st in MLB)
- Average Velocity: 93.8 mph
- Whiff / Swing: 22.9% (14th in MLB)
- Percent Thrown: 41.6%
Okay fine, you win. Here’s an Ottavino slider:
2.) Josh Hader’s Slider
Josh Hader really burst onto the scene this year and put up extraordinary numbers. With his extreme “whipping” motion, cross-body delivery, and high velocity, his stuff is nearly unhittable. His slider is no different, as it generated some of the best peripherals in the game. The video below shows an awesome home plate view of his slider coming right at you.
- xwOBA Allowed: .127 (7th in MLB)
- Spin Rate: 2493 rpm
- Whiff / Swing: 54.9% (7th in MLB)
- Percent Thrown: 20.7%
3.) Edwin Diaz’s Slider
Edwin Diaz was probably the best reliever in all of baseball in 2018, and I’m sure the New York Mets are incredibly excited to show off their newest acquisition. Diaz used his fastball/slider combination to reach new heights in 2018, and the video below shows just how good it can be as he strikes out Shin-Soo Choo in the 12th inning.
- xwOBA Allowed: .162 (22nd in MLB)
- Average Velocity: 89.1 mph
- Whiff / Swing: 53.8% (11th in MLB)
- Percent Thrown: 37.3%
4.) Blake Treinen’s Sinker
Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) nicknamed Treinen, “The Witch” due to his uncanny ability to make baseballs move in extreme ways. Treinen’s sinker has some of the best movement in baseball, so Rob included 5 of them in one of his famous gif’s below.
- xwOBA Allowed: .286 (24th in MLB)
- Average Velocity: 97.3 mph
- Whiff / Swing: 29.2% (4th in MLB)
- Percent Thrown: 50.3%
5 Filthy Blake Treinen Turbo Sinkers (none under 98mph). pic.twitter.com/74fBpjWemc— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) December 6, 2018
5.) Ryne Stanek’s Splitter
If I gave you 100 guesses, do you think you’d be able to guess that Ryne Stanek led the league in both xwOBA allowed and whiff/swing % on his splitter? I’m incredibly surprised myself, but just look at this thing. It’s truly impossible to hit!
- xwOBA Allowed: .126 (1st in MLB)
- Average Velocity: 88.2 mph (with 1040 rpm of spin rate)
- Whiff / Swing: 57.1% (1st in MLB)
- Percent Thrown: 13.5% (kind of crazy how low this is considering his peripherals, expect the Rays to change that in 2019)
6.) Aroldis Chapman’s Slider
Aroldis will forever be a baseball legend for his electric, 100 mph+ fastball, but a huge portion of his success this year was because of his slider. Chapman disguises his slider well and throws it 12 mph slower than his fastball, which likely results in the extremely high whiff/swing % you see below. Jackie Bradley Jr. fell victim to Chapman’s slider in this video, which gave the Yankee’s their 100th win of 2018.
- xwOBA Allowed: .103 (3rd in MLB)
- Average Velocity: 86.2 mph
- Whiff / Swing: 62.3% (2nd in MLB)
- Percent Thrown: 25.4%
7.) Craig Kimbrel’s Knuckle Curveball
Craig Kimbrel is one of the hottest free agents on the market this offseason due to his long history of elite success closing games. His knuckle curveball is nasty, so check out the metrics and video below, and get ready for your eyes to pop.
- xwOBA Allowed: .197 (42nd in MLB– there are a TON of good curves)
- Spin Rate: 2578 rpm
- Whiff / Swing: 55.6% (3rd in MLB)
- Percent Thrown: 35.3%
8.) Ryan Pressly’s Curveball
When Pressly was traded from the Twins to the Astros this year, not much was made of it. However, the Astros saw his curveball’s spin rate and knew they found someone special. Ryan Pressly put up some of the best numbers among all relievers in 2018, and his curveball is one for the ages.
- xwOBA Allowed: .169 (21st in MLB)
- Spin Rate: 3225 rpm (2nd in MLB behind Garrett Richards)
- Average Velocity: 83 mph
- Percent Thrown: 28.1%
9.) Dellin Betances’ Knuckle Curveball
Okay, this pitch is just unfair. Betances’ knuckle curveball has the ability to truly embarrass hitters, as he commands the pitch extraordinarily well, while also tunneling it with his fastball. His knuckle curveball also resulted in one of the gifs of the year against Jake Marisnick, where Betances struck him out looking on three straight knuckle curveballs (Courtesty Rob Friedman).
- xwOBA Allowed: .182 (28th in MLB)
- Average Velocity: 84.3 mph
- Whiff / Swing: 43.2% (29th in MLB)
- Percent Thrown: 35.2%
Dellin Betances, Filthy 3 Pitch K (all curveballs).— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 30, 2018
Dellin: Can I help you?
Jake: No, thanks, I’m just looking.
10.) Chaz Roe’s Slider
Chaz Roe’s slider is filthy. Per Fangraphs, it has the highest H-Movement in all of baseball at 12.3 in. The next closest for sliders is Kyle Crick, who comes in at 10.5- nearly 2 inches off of Roe! It’s truly a beautiful pitch, and one I hope becomes even nastier as Roe’s workload increases. By the way, the video below literally made me yell, “OHHH!”– it’s that nice.
- xwOBA Allowed: .214 (80th in MLB– there are a ton of good sliders)
- Average Velocity: 81.6 mph
- H-Movement: 12.3 in. (1st in MLB, regardless of pitch)
- Percent Thrown: 52.5%
Now the moment you’ve all been waiting for, Position Players:
1.) Matt Davidson
Matt Davidson is actually a pretty good pitcher. He’s toyed around with the idea of being a two way player, and certainly flashed the stuff to compete. Here he is striking out Giancarlo Stanton of all people with a 91 mph fastball and a devastating 71 mph curveball.
2.) Anthony Rizzo
When setting the innings pitched minimum to 0.1 IP, your ERA leader is Mr. Anthony Rizzo. He came out firing with a 53 mph “curveball” and a 62 mph “curveball.” The latter got him out of the inning for the Cubs, preserving his pristine 0.00 ERA.
3.) Pablo Sandoval
Sandoval came in for mop-up duty earlier this year and did not disappoint for San Fran. He closed out the Dodgers with a perfect 9th inning, inducing 3 ground balls on just 11 total pitches. The video below shows this perfect inning, where Sandoval regularly hit the high 80’s in fastball velocity.
4.) Scott Kingery
On a hot August day in Philadelphia, the Mets faced off against the Phillies. Who would have thought that this would be the day Scott Kingery makes his major league pitching debut? Scott certainly has some work to do, but featured an eephus-type pitch with potential for damage. Rob Friedman did the tunneling work on this gif, and it’s truly mesmerizing.
Scott Kingery, 🛸 overlay. pic.twitter.com/sE2wvztzFJ— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 17, 2018
5.) Jose Reyes
The Nationals had their bats working on July 31, 2018, as they put up more than 20 runs against the Mets. Needing a spark, the Mets put in Jose Reyes to shut the door. Unfortunately, he didn’t fare as well as he’d hoped, but he flashed a near side arm delivery with life on his fastball– check it out below.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed! Please feel free to follow me on twitter (@HispanicHoosier) and share your own favorite pitches of 2018– I’d love to see any I may have missed!
Featured Photo: Mark6Mauno, Flickr