go through Rob Friedman, aka “Pitching Ninja”
Fox Sports MLB Analyst
We’re entering the final stages of the 2022 MLB campaign – the World Series starts Friday on FOX! With the Padres-Phillies and Yankees-Astros going head-to-head, we’ve seen great pitching advantages in both the ALCS and NLCS.
Here are my dirtiest pitches in the league championship series:
François Valdez excelled in the regular season, setting a major league single-season record with 25 consecutive high-quality starts.Valdez continues to set record in playoffs, breaking MLB record for most curveballs in a game with 16 In Game 2 of the ALCS. During the regular season, Valdez’s curveball ranks fourth in baseball in value and has a 45.5 percent smell rate on the field. So it’s no surprise that he was able to dominate with a curve in the playoffs.
It was all the curveball smell in Game 2 against the Yankees. Curveball Tour!
Wheeler’s dirty curveball against Soto
Zach Wheeler has had a great postseason so far with a 1.78 ERA while hitting 25 strikeouts in his four games. Wheeler’s fastball is getting a lot of attention, rightly because of its speed (often in the 90s and above, even hitting 100 mph), but his curveball is also terrible this postseason. It’s a Wheeler curveball that gets a sword from Juan Soto, a tall feat because Soto has one of the best eyes in baseball.
This overlay illustrates why Soto swings so badly on this course. The curveball was called a strike almost perfectly with Wheeler’s 97-mph fastball. As a hitter, the curveball looks like that fastball until it dives into the dirt at the last second, so the ball you end up swinging almost hits your foot.
Wheeler also dismantled Soto early in the series, allowing him to go to first base with a record three premature “walk” props, knocking Soto out after trailing 3-0 in the count.
Wheeler’s dominance helped the Phillies reach the World Series for the first time since 2009.
Loáisiga’s incredible 100 mph sinker
Jonathan Loáisiga’s 100-mph sinker ran an incredible 21 inches and dropped 20 inches. Just an impossible ball to hit, and one of the key reasons why Loisgar had such a weak contact on his sinker.
Johnny Lasagna often serves burnt cheese.
Darvish’s slow curveball
Yu Darvish is the mad scientist of the pitch grip. He has 12 or so pitches that he throws a lot while seeming to invent the pitch on the fly. I’m a sucker for gorgeous slow curveballs, and Yu threw this beautiful 67-mph curve to strike out Bryce Harper.
This is how Darvish describes to me how he throws a slow curveball.
Darvish also has this dirty 16″ slider. This home plate view really shows how tough a hitter is!
Verlander’s Unfair Fastball and Slider Coverage
I like stacking pitches because I think it helps fans understand how hard it is to hit the ball. Instead of yelling “why did he do that?” the overlay helps explain exactly what the batsman sees when he chases the ball out of the area.
The superposition of Justin Verlander’s high fastballs and nasty sliders shows why batsmen swing on sliders that slide out of the zone. You can see how well Verlander hits that slider with his 96-mph fastball, making it nearly impossible for batters to distinguish the pitches. You start swinging what you think is a fastball, but since it’s a slider, you end up swinging in the air… woohoo.
A few years ago, I nicknamed Jose Alvarado “El Diablo“Because his pitching looks like black magic. Now that he has improved his pitching command, El Diablo has taken his game to the next level.
Alvarado’s 94-mph knives are pure magic. During the regular season, Alvarado’s knife smell rate was 55.7 percent, the highest of any major league knife. It’s a totally unfair pitch, as you can see here:
This overlay helps illustrate how unlikely it is to hit Alvarado. Here’s his 101 mph fastball covered with his 93 mph cutter. Because of the extreme speed, you have a fraction of a second to distinguish those pitches and start your swing. This is the secret to securing strikeouts.
Bryan Abreu absolutely destroyed Josh Donaldson on this fastball that went up at 99 mph, taking a sword while also allowing Donaldson to bend his knee before its greatness.
Ryne Stanek beat the team with something dominant while also gradually adding to his K festivities. I love pitchers pitching with emotion!
at last, Josh Hader set a new playoff record with eight straight strikeouts. This is the side that Hader eliminated the Phillies. Simply overwhelming, changing at an absurd 93 mph!
Giancarlo Stanton broke the Astros’ scoreboard after running down a ball in the outfield and shoved it. I decided to have some fun with this game and put Stanton in a different situation: from a game-saving catch to a planet-saving interstellar force.
Rob Friedman is an MLB pitching analyst for FOX Sports, and his work has appeared on numerous Major League Baseball broadcasts. Follow him on Twitter @Pitching Ninja.
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