April 20, 2007


Great stuff: The most unhittable pitches in baseball (TOM KOCH-WESER, April 19, 2007, Yahoo)

Scouts often speak of pitchers with "plus" or "plus-plus" offerings, usually referring to where a particular pitch falls on the 20-80 scouting scale in terms of both velocity and movement. But if we dig a little deeper, which pitches - given their speed, movement and deception - are actually the most unhittable in the game? [...]

[Cole] Hamels consistently delivered the most unhittable changeup in 2006, producing a Whiff Rate of .514, the leading figure by a significant margin over Colorado closer Brian Fuentes, who posted a rate of .460, and Arizona's Brandon Webb (.454).

Johan Santana, widely considered to have the best change in the game, finished the year at .450, fourth among qualifiers. To his credit, Santana also delivered his changeup more frequently in the strike zone (38.6 percent) than anyone in the top five, while opposing hitters slugged a meager .221 against it, also the best of the group.

Hamels' teammate, Ryan Madson, ranked fifth at .426.

While those players are certainly dominant when it comes to the premier off-speed pitch, the mantle of the most unhittable pitch in 2006 goes to the slider of Fernando Cabrera.

Cleveland's young reliever recorded a Whiff Rate of .652 on that breaking ball, and, if you think that's a fluke, think again. Had Cabrera qualified the year before, 2006 would have been the second consecutive season his slider led the league. In 2005, Cabrera posted an eye-popping Whiff Rate of .762, though in limited action (42 swings).

Interestingly, Cabrera only threw his slider in the strike zone 28.6 percent of the time, well below the major league average of 41.6 percent. In other words, he makes the pitch unhittable with a late bite that places the ball outside the plate or in the dirt much of the time.

The most unhittable pitch in baseball has long been a sufficiently tight slider. Unfortunately, it's also the most unthrowable. That's what ate Kerry Wood's elbow. Watch tape of his 20k game and you'll see one (though they pretended he was throiwing a curve back then) that God couldn't hit with a boat oar, and it broke so sharply that it even stayed in the strike zone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 20, 2007 7:44 AM

"Are you saying Jesus can't hit a curveball?"

--Major League

Posted by: Bartman at April 20, 2007 6:22 PM