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The toughest pitches to hit in baseball?

July 11, 2009

There are times when it just does not seem like it would be THAT hard to hit a baseball.  Yet some serious analysts and scientists have stated that it’s near impossible to hit one according to the normal laws of physics.

Dave Winfield, former Major Leaguer once said: “All good balls to hit are strikes, though not all strikes are good balls to hit.”

Is there anything worse than for a player to strike out at the most in-opportune moment, especially when the team is behind and runners in scoring position?

The WSJ ran an interesting piece today on the toughest spots to hit a baseball according to current stats for Major League Baseball. I found this interesting especially because one might think that a fastball (up and in, or high on the outside corner) might be in the top five for sure.

Instead, the hardest to hit pitches, at least in the Majors, is the lower pitch that is moving or breaking in some way.  I find this interesting because I seem to hear all the time that scouts and managers are looking for guys who can throw heat – upwards of 95+ MPH.  The following chart would seem to indicate that control and precision – speed notwithstanding – is more important than sheer velocity.

Here’s a reproduction of the chart provided in the WSJ article today.

1- Slider – Michael Wuertz of Okaland throws a slider here that 49.7% of all batters miss.

2 – Slider – Zack Greinke throws a slider here that 49% of all batters whiff at.

3 – Changeup – Rich Harden of the Cubs whiffs 48.6% when his changeups lands here.

4 – Curveball – 48.3% of all batters miss A.J. Burnett’s (Yankees) curveball here.

5 – Slider – Colorado’s Jorge De La Rosa’s curveball makes 42.5% of his opponents whiff here.

According to Wikipedia:

In baseball, a slider is a pitch halfway between a curveball and a fastball. When pitched, the slider breaks laterally and down, with more speed than a curve ball but less speed than a fastball. The break on the pitch is shorter than that of a curveball.

WATCH this video on how to throw a slider.

The curveball is a breaking pitch in baseball thrown with a grip and hand movement that imparts down and/or sideways spin to the ball.

WATCH this video on how to throw a curveball.

changeup is a type of pitch in baseball. Other names include change-of-pace and simply change. The changeup is sometimes called an off-speed pitch, although that term can also be used simply to mean any pitch that is slower than a fastball.

WATCH this video on how to throw a changeup.

Click here to see the different ways the baseball is gripped to throw different pitches.

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