In three of the last four years, it’s been a slightly above-average pitch for him. Yu Darvish’s slider, however, stands out as being the “When the Levee Breaks” of MLB sliders. It’s my personal favorite, and it also has Nolan Ryan’s endorsement (h/t dallasnews.com) as the best in the game.
Every major league pitcher has a variety of pitches in his arsenal. Years of practice and trial and error go into perfecting these pitches. You may have tried to throw a curveball or a slider, or even a screwball, with an ordinary baseball and found it difficult to do. We’ve found that it’s much easier to throw these pitches and observe the results by throwing a Styrofoam ball. Curveballs are rarely seen in major league baseball games anymore. This is simply because the difficulty of throwing outweighs the potential reward, not to mention the risk of hurting a batter.
Batters can recognize the type of pitch a pitcher is throwing by looking at the seams of the ball. Curveballs are relatively slow, usually between MPH in the Majors, but they have a high amount of movement compared to other pitch types. maxbats A slider has a higher velocity than a curveball, as well as a flatter glove-side break. Some of the best sliders in Major League Baseball are just a few MPH slower than the pitcher’s fastball, but they are usually about 9-12 MPH slower.
Traditionally thrown with more sidespin than backspin, the pitch traditionally breaks glove-side with more lateral sweep than cutters (gyro-dominant sliders excluded). Because it balances the three spin components, sliders come in many different shapes and sizes, and the amount of sweep is often the focal point of the shape. The Slider from a right-handed pitcher tends to move down and away from a right-handed hitter.
The most significant difference between the sinker and curveball pitch is their flight path and trajectory. It is heavily dependent on hard downward movement with immense power behind it. Speaking from my baseball days, throwing a curveball is a feat of strength similar to hitting a bicycle kick in soccer. Before the ball releases from your palm, ensure your wrist is turned, and you are applying downward pressure on the ball with the tip of your middle finger while rotating your thumb upwards towards the sky. The sliders featured by Darvish and Romo are as good as they get for right-handers for pretty much the same reason Wainwright’s curve is as good as it gets for right-handers.
The way they veer off their path towards the hitter is the main difference between the two. The ball should be gripped a bit tighter than usual until the point of release to create more friction and increase the ball’s air resistance which should cause it to sink. This drop is a result of seams catching the air in a particular way causing the ball to sink. This pitch is a bit slower than a traditional fastball and drops 6 to 9 inches more. As the ball flies, all four seams rotate in the same direction of the flight trajectory.
While we’re at it, we might as well make up words for the curveballs of Wainwright and Kershaw. As nasty as Darvish’s slider is, it’s not quite in a league of its own. Per FanGraphs, Sergio Romo has saved more runs above average with his slider than any other reliever in baseball over the last two seasons, and it breaks very much like a Darvish slider. Zimmermann’s curveball isn’t exactly flat as far as curveballs go, but Wainwright’s has a significant edge in both horizontal movement and vertical movement. It’s the horizontal movement that really counts, though, and it fortunately shows up to the naked eye. According to Baseball Info Solutions by way of FanGraphs, Wainwright has saved more runs above average with his Uncle Charlie than anyone else over the last two seasons.