By Rob Friedman, aka “Pitching Ninja”
FOX Sports MLB Analyst
Last week we centered at the National League Cy Young contenders. Now let’s check out the American League race, which has been from side to side for many of the season, with Shane McClanahan, Dylan Cease and Justin Verlander making their circumstances.
Each of them has pitched brilliantly this yr, however there may be one pitcher who has pulled clear of the pack and established himself because the transparent frontrunner.
1. Ponce de León has not anything on Justin Verlander.
At 39 years of age, pitching in his seventeenth season and coming off Tommy John surgical operation, Verlander must be at the again finish of his profession. A certain first-ballot Hall of Famer, Verlander has been some of the dominant pitchers of his technology, however many of the baseball global puzzled whether or not he may come again and be any place close to the similar pitcher as he used to be ahead of his harm.
Instead of fading away, alternatively, Verlander is having most likely the most productive season of his profession at the mound. He leads the main leagues with a 1.78 ERA, which is the bottom of any American League pitcher with a minimum of 157 innings since Pedro Martinez’s 1.74 ERA in 2000 (broadly thought to be some of the dominant seasons by way of a tumbler in major-league historical past).
Relying most commonly on his still-overpowering fastball in addition to a depraved slider and hammer curveball, Verlander has 3 pitches that each and every have a batting moderate towards underneath .200.
For a supposedly “aging” pitcher, Verlander’s fastball nonetheless is a weapon. In truth, his heater, which nonetheless touches 99 mph, ranks as essentially the most precious fastball in baseball relating to run worth.
Verlander’s slider has a 35% whiff price and is a essential a part of his arsenal as a result of how smartly it really works off his increased fastball. This overlay displays how difficult that mixture is for hitters.
Lastly, as a result of Verlander loves to throw his fastball up within the zone, hitters additionally will have to recognize his curveball, which begins out taking a look like a prime fastball however can drop into the zone because of its massive 12-to-6 downward ruin.
This exceptional pitch arsenal, blended with Verlander’s good strategic thoughts and huge revel in, creates an elite pitcher who can assault hitters in such a lot of tactics it is just about unfair to them. He can surgically dissect batters together with his super command or just overpower them — both manner, he will beat them as a result of, maximum of all, Verlander likes to compete and win.
2. Dylan Cease is the creator of a real masterpiece.
Cease is the landlord of essentially the most precious pitch in baseball: an almost unhittable slider. His slider is such an integral a part of his pitch arsenal that he wrote a poem about it, “O’ Slider Slide.”
Cease’s slider has a great 45.1% whiff price this season, and he throws it just about 43% of the time — much more than his electrical fastball, which averages just about 97 mph and will contact 100.
Cease’s slider is solely vicious:
When you mix that ferocious slider with Cease’s upper-90s fastball, you virtually really feel sorry for hitters.
Cease’s knuckle curve could also be the most important a part of his arsenal, and he can use it to “tunnel” off increased fastballs, even fastballs that finally end up manner out of the zone. This reasons hitters to occasionally surrender at the knuckle curve as it looks as if a ball out of hand after which drops sharply into the strike zone.
Cease may also paintings in an absurdly gradual changeup this is 20 mph or extra slower than his fastball. Talk about getting hitters out in entrance!
Here’s Cease’s changeup grip and a visitor look by way of his cat.
3. Shane McClanahan can paint with the most productive of them.
McClanahan has had a breakout season for the Rays. Sugar Shane has a 2.13 ERA and is moment in baseball in WHIP at 0.86, at the back of simplest Verlander.
McClanahan has an overwhelming fastball that touches 100 mph, however he is not only a thrower. He can completely paint with the heater.
Not simplest does McClanahan throw diesel, however together with his hammer curveball (.142 batting moderate towards), fierce slider (46.4% whiff price) and baffling changeup (45.7% whiff price), he has some of the dominant pitch arsenals in all of baseball.
McClanahan’s nasty curveball:
McClanahan’s gorgeous changeup:
And this is an overlay to turn how McClanahan’s slider and changeup paintings in combination to humiliate hitters.
Sugar Shane additionally has the power to KO his warring parties, like some other “Sugar Shane”:
4. Fabulous Framber is the brand new definition of high quality.
Consistently dominant, Framber Valdez simply set the major-league file together with his twenty fifth consecutive high quality get started.
Framber’s curveball is without doubt one of the keys to his luck. It’s probably the most very best curves within the recreation; hitters are hitting simplest .147 towards it with over a forty five% whiff price this season.
It’s a pitch that may completely embarrass hitters.
That curveball is a large reason Valdez is 16-5 this yr with a 2.57 ERA.
Shohei Ohtani is a class all his personal.
Ohtani is a unicorn and, fittingly, is in a class all by way of himself. He leads the majors in strikeouts in keeping with 9 innings amongst certified starters with 11.9 Okay/9 and has jaw-dropping stuff at the bump.
Ohtani’s splitter stays some of the unhittable pitches in baseball, with a 49.1% whiff price. You can see what makes this pitch so difficult when blended together with his higher 90s/100 mph fastball.
Shohei’s slider is the second-most precious pitch in baseball (at the back of Cease’s slider) and has video game-like motion, averaging over 85 mph with virtually 14 inches of horizontal ruin.
And let’s no longer overlook Shohei’s fantastic glossy new toy,a turbo sinker that he come what may added in the midst of the season. It’s a pitch so filthy that every one José Altuve can do is snicker at how unfair it’s.
So it is not unexpected that Ohtani received my Twitter ballot of which AL starter has the filthiest stuff:
Rob Friedman is an MLB pitching analyst for FOX Sports whose paintings has been featured on many Major League Baseball publicizes. Follow him on Twitter @PitchingNinja.
Get extra from Major League Baseball Follow your favorites to get details about video games, information and extra.