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!

Sometimes you just get beat.


As a sports fan, I completely understand a man’s almost impulsive defense of his team. We develop a myriad of excuses build around a very simple concept: The shifting of blame. Crimson Tide fans, myself included, felt just such an impulse around 7PM on Saturday.

Alabama hosted Texas A&M as arguably the nation’s best team. Sure there were those touting Oregon and K-State as contenders, but I think we all felt those teams were a step behind Bama. They have it all, right? The country’s best defense, a mistake free quarterback and an offensive line ready to start for the Chiefs next week.

All of those statements were, and still are, true. But there’s something all SEC fans should know from experience. When you line up in the SEC, even as the nation’s best squad, there’s always a chance you’ll leave with a loss. This can be said for any SEC conference game, but rings especially true in the case of a very talented A&M team.

Texas A&M played about as well as any team could be expected to play under the circumstances. Johnny Manziel showed up and hung 345 yards and two TDs on Alabama – in Tuscaloosa. I’ll say that again – in Tuscaloosa. Do I need to mention a national title shot was on the line? All things considered, this performance was other worldly. Oh yeah, their defense played big as well. This was a perfect storm of incredibly well coached, well practiced kids playing for pride and acceptance. Acceptance granted.

That isn’t to say there wasn’t some Crimson Tide blame to go around. Poor play calling and a costly fumble resulted in a hill too high for McCarron to climb, but that’s the SEC.

As fans we love to collectively enjoy the SEC’s dominance. But in being dominant we have to accept the reality of a loss on any given Saturday. And when you spot a good team 20 points in the first, you should expect to lose.

Tampa Bay has a ton of weapons, but their secondary leaves much to be desired.


The Bucs front office is looking really good right now.  It wasn’t too long ago that we all wrote Freeman off as a guy who couldn’t meet expectations – a guy who couldn’t handle the NFL on a mental level. Enter Vincent Jackson.

The offseason acquisition of Vincent Jackson has given Josh Freeman the extra weapon he needed to stretch the field and regain his waning confidence. We’re now staring down a performer responsible for 5 straight games with a passer rating of over 100, not to mention a TD to INT line of 13/1.

While Jackson has been a huge part of Freeman’s success, it’s impossible to ignore the impact Martin has had on Tampa’s downfield passing game. Doug Martin is the definition of draft day success. You can’t overlook the risk they took on Doug. Scouting a guy and feeling you’ve seen something others overlooked is one thing; checking that gut instinct on a second and third rounder is something else. Dominik was given this opportunity because someone in the Tampa front office trusted his judgment, and it appears Dominik never questioned that fact.

Whether or not Tampa is in the midsts of a huge organizational upswing isn’t even in question, but their playoff hopes in 2012 are more than suspect.

With the likes of Rodgers, Ryan and Brady ripping zone coverage to shreds, shutdown corner play is becoming increasingly important in today’s NFL. When Aaron hits up Denny’s at 4am, he’s subbing out his eggs for 2 deep zones. You just have to get solid man play out of your secondary in order to compete. With that being said, Tampa has arguably the league’s worst tandem in Wright and Biggers.
The pair has landed Tampa near the cellar in total passing yards against and looked bad in the process. If you couple that with a very stout run defensive, you’ve done half the opposing coaches’ jobs for them.

The idea is that Tampa contains the run in an effort to force third and long situations advantageous to zone play from the safety and linebacker positions. The problem with this theory is a lack of secondary personnel to pull it off. Teams will continue to abandon the run and go down field until the Bucs prove they can put up even the slightest fight down field.

As Tampa comes down the stretch they’ll have Brees and Ryan standing between them and a playoff berth. If they get it done it’ll be because Wright and Biggers remembered they belong at this level.