5 MLB Pitchers with Best Secondary Pitches
Major League Baseball has long been enamored with starting pitchers who possess the blazing fastball—the high-90s four-seamer that induces countless swings and misses, and the two-seamer with late break that beguiles hitters in mid-swing.
However, not only is the fastball a prized possession, but a vast array of secondary pitches that are equally unhittable are hot commodities as well.
Here are five current MLB pitchers who have in their arsenal an array of secondary pitches that have become legendary.
1. Cliff Lee: Philadelphia Phillies
Since 2008, Cliff Lee has become one of the most dominant left-handed pitchers in baseball, and it’s not because of his fastball.
Lee, the 2008 AL Cy Young Award Winner, has been downright nasty, and it’s his cutter and signature curveball that give hitters fits more than anything else. Lee struck out a career-high 238 batters in 2011, and while many would naturally assume his fastball did the talking, for Lee, it’s his great assortment of secondary pitches that did the trick.
2. Cole Hamels: Philadelphia Phillies
Cole Hamels is another Philadelphia Phillies left-hander who doesn’t rely on his fastball to get hitters out. Rather, it’s his changeup that many consider the best in baseball.
Hamels threw his changeup for strikes 72.0 percent of the time in 2011 and led the league in swinging strike percentage for that pitch (27.1 percent) as well. For Hamels, it’s not just a devastating pitch, it’s his go-to pitch.
3. Jered Weaver: Los Angeles Angels
For Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver, the fastball is used to set up what many consider to be the best changeup of any right-handed pitcher in baseball.
Weaver’s heater only averages just above 89 MPH, yet he consistently strikes out close to 200 batters each year. Weaver’s changeup and curveball are stellar secondary pitches, and he uses them with regularity and great precision.
4. Jamie Moyer: Colorado Rockies
There is a very good reason that Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jamie Moyer has lasted for 24-plus seasons in Major League Baseball, and why he became the oldest man in baseball history to win a game.
At 49 years of age, Moyer won’t even touch 80 MPH on the radar gun with his fastball anymore. However, he uses an array of secondary pitches, including a drop-off-the-shelf cutter, straight change and terrific curveball to continue keeping hitters off balance. After 268 victories, Moyer has proven that pure heat isn’t the reason for his longevity.
5. Roy Halladay: Philadelphia Phillies
There is a very good reason why the Philadelphia Phillies have what many consider to be the top rotation in baseball—their top three starting pitchers, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay, all have some of the best secondary pitches in baseball.
In Halladay’s case, it’s his devastating curveball that constantly beguiles hitters. He threw his signature curveball for a strike 68.7 percent of the time in 2011, with a swing-and-miss percentage of 18.27 percentage that was tops among all starters in baseball. Halladay also features a cut fastball that rides in on right-handed hitters, preventing them from getting a full extension on their swing.
Statistical source: Fangraphs.com
This is a guest post submitted by Mike Wright. Mike played all kinds of sports growing up and adamantly follows everything sports. He works with Phoenix Bats, a company that creates world-class wood baseball bats, such as their premier custom wood bats, for amateur and professional ball players around the world. Mike loves writing on different sports topics and is honored to contribute here.