The Movement Report: Baseball’s best breaking stuff


kershaw_vs_rockiesBig League ballplayers are good – I mean crazy good. I’m often reminded of this fact when I see some young-gun pitcher elevated from triple-A to his Major League affiliate.

For fifteen or more years this kid’s entire life has been enviable success. Little League, AAU and Highschool statistics served as memoirs of a laughably one-sided career. Maybe those triple-A guys gave him some headaches, but it was short lived and domination soon followed. The minors, like every other level, was his. All of the above holds true until the day our prodigious youth watches Miguel Cabrera step into the box. After being touched up deep, he realizes a tough reality – guys are different in the bigs.

That leads me to my larger point – I love watching great hitters look bad and breaking pitches are usually the culprit. It’s why we all love watching Adam Wainwright try to buckle Joey Votto with that villainous curve. I’ve compiled a list of pitchers whose breaking pitches are especially heinous.

Clayton Kershaw (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JN9_UE4XzLQ)

A Bleacher Report article, as well as Buster Olney, recently touted some interesting Kershaw statistics. Hitters are batting .120 lifetime against his curveball. Did I mention he’s never had a regular season hook taken deep? Pair that with an equally irritating slider and we have arguably the best overall pitcher in either league.

Adam Wainwright (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oJdBCwQYWA)

Wainwright’s curve is one of the few with amazing break in both directions. To right handed hitters, it looks as if it’s falling straight north to south. As bad as that 12 to 6 action can be, Adam’s falls AWAY at the same time. It’s straight nasty and an almost guaranteed strikeout 0-2.

Matt Harvey (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTbjdfBdnCA)

Harvey is special. All eyes have been on the power righty and mostly because his velocity is paired with improved command. His slider comes across in the low 90’s with late break and pin point accuracy. It’s painful watching hitters try so hard to catch up with a pitch that eventually winds up a foot off the plate.  

Chris Sale (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DC_GmiXvbR8)

I watched the majority of Sunday night’s contest between Sale and Matt Moore, intrigued by a match up of young, often under appreciated hurlers. Both looked good and Sale was the victim of another outing without run support, but what caught my eye was his sweeping slider. I can only imagine how tough it must be for a left handed batter to see this pitch. The ball comes out of Sale hand around first base and winds up in the cellar of the right hand batters box. Sale is going to be an elite, top 10 overall pitcher over the next couple of years. Did I mention he’s a Florida Gulf Coast kid?

Yu Darvish (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZ3UHMbvIT8)

Everyone is in love with Yu’s slider.  He apparently tosses the pitch at a 30% clip (per Buster Olney) and by the looks of it should consider upping that number to 50%.  The downward break is so sharp and hard it looks impossible to pass on when anywhere near the strike zone. We’ll have the privilege of watching Yu Darvish fan guys for another 15 years and the AL West should be terrified that he’ll adjust to another level with more experience.

Clay Buchholtz (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdTLI2i2n-Y)

Buchholz  just has sick,  late movement on everything he throws. His slider is particularly bad down and in on lefties and he’s used it to really break out as a top strikeout guy in the AL. Clay, bro, lose the spit – your stuff is barely legal as it is.

If I left your favorite guy off the list it’s because my picks were better but, please, by all means correct me!

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