Many baseball analysts and officials have decried the increase in strikeouts in today’s game. And to be fair, it is a legitimate problem. 2018 was the first season in Major League Baseball history where there were more strikeouts than hits. Rays General Manager Erik Neander remarked that there will be a “breaking point,” adding that there’s “not a lot of entertainment” in “seeing a few hundred pitches a night that aren’t put in play.”
However, there is the other side of that argument. While I love great defense as much as the next guy, I also love disgusting, inhumane pitches that shouldn’t be moving the way that they are moving and make me feel like Kobe watching Shannon Brown end Mario West’s career.
Strikeouts are scientifically more fun than groundouts and flyouts and I don’t argue with science. This topic was inspired by a tweet asking which pitch was the most aesthetically pleasing.
Baseball fans, what pitch is the most aesthetically pleasing to you?— Nick Stellini (@StelliniTweets) March 5, 2020
The replies include some very entertaining gifs, including Greg Maddux’s two-seam fastball:
Maddux's two seamer that cut back in on a right handed hitter and caught the inside corner https://t.co/8UrCYzxmTM— Max Rieper (@maxrieper) March 5, 2020
Zack Greinke’s nice 69-MPH “curveball”
oh you know what it's the 2-3 eephuses greinke throws every year pic.twitter.com/sJ1iFt80Aq— Lauren L Walker (@LLW902) March 5, 2020
And Kerry Wood’s slider, which just happened to be the final strikeout of his legendary 20-strikeout game in 1998.
Kerry Wood's slider pic.twitter.com/WKTHk7Jo69— Ants (@AntsInOK) March 5, 2020
My personal favorite pitch is a good changeup. Pedro Martinez comes to mind.
This conversation got me to thinking. What are the nastiest and most aesthetically pleasing pitches from Royals pitchers? For the sake of time and also for the sake of having available gifs to share, I limited the findings to this past decade.
Yordano Ventura’s fastball
Gotta start with some heat. Kansas City has had some live arms before, including Kelvin Herrera, who is on this list. But fastballs like Yordano Ventura’s fastball – specifically his 2014 fastball – just don’t exist. Not just in Royals history, but in baseball history. In 2014, he threw 545 fastballs of at least 98 MPH, more than every other pitcher not named Aroldis Chapman.
But we shouldn’t also forget the swagger, the beautiful leg kick that came with these fastballs and the, at times, unhittable arm-side run.
Zack Greinke’s slider
Everybody (rightfully) loves Greinke’s slow curve, but the slider was his best breaking ball in Kansas City. I had to dig deep to find cuts of his slider from this past decade, but I found this 2010 start against the Reds. He struck out 12 that day, nine of which came via slider, including these three nasty ones.
Here’s the box score for that game, if you’re interested. Billy Butler and David DeJesus had monster days, going a combined 7-8 with two homers, three doubles, two walks, and five RBI. Joey Votto inflicted most of the damage upon Greinke with two homers.
Joakim Soria’s curveball
This is somewhat of a cult favorite of mine. Soria’s curveball was pretty impressive over his first three seasons in Kansas City, but was less effective in 2010 and 2011. But, given that we are all Greinke fans, who doesn’t love a nice, looping, 69-MPH curveball?
Wade Davis’ cutter
This list is about pitch aesthetics and general nastiness, but as far as actual effectiveness, few Royals pitches were better than Davis’ cutter. 2014-2015 Davis was as dominant as any reliever we had ever seen and his cutter was his absolute best pitch.
I don’t want to exaggerate, but this might be the nastiest pitch ever thrown. Pitches like this make me wonder how any batter has ever made contact with a Major League pitch.
Just your average back-foot slider that’s actually a 93-MPH cutter.
Greg Holland’s slider
One thing I remember from the 2014 postseason, specifically from the TBS broadcasts, was Greg Holland’s slider confusing the mess out of Ron Darling and Ernie Johnson.
Darling spent the bottom of the 11th during game one of the ALDS trying to figure out what the heck Holland was throwing. His arm angle made his slider unique and also impossible to hit.
James Shields’ changeup
I have a soft spot for this one. To answer the original question, a good changeup is my favorite pitch aesthetically and James Shields’ changeup is my all-time favorite.
James Shields’ changeup is probably my favorite pitch of all-time https://t.co/NUjQmswgbz— Ryan Heffernon (@RyanHeffernon) March 5, 2020
From 2007-2014, James Shields was the 11th most valuable pitcher in baseball and during that span, only Cole Hamels and Felix Hernandez had more productive changeups than Shields.
Similar to Davis’ cutter, this pitch falls under both aesthetically pleasing and wildly effective. From 2008-2015, Shields got at least 140 swings and misses on his changeups. He only eclipsed 100 whiffs with any of his other pitches four times and he never had more than 121.
Kelvin Herrera’s slider
I was very high on Kelvin Herrera going into 2016 because of the slider that he suddenly broke out during the 2015 postseason. Jeff Sullivan also did a write up on it, noting that Herrera’s percentage of breaking balls thrown and strikeout percentage rose during the postseason thanks to that new slider.
Herrera made his slider a regular offering in 2016 and turned in his best season in Kansas City. It should be noted here that Herrera’s changeup was also filthy, specifically during his breakout 2012 season.
But my goodness, look at this pitch.
Chris Young’s invisaball
Chris Young might have been my favorite player in 2015. He was the Royals most consistent starter and he did it by blowing belt high, NAIA-style 86-MPH fastballs by Major League hitters. He also shut down the Mets for three huge innings in game one of the 2015 World Series and couldn’t stop striking out Astros in his one ALDS appearance.
That 6’ 10” arm angle really was magical.
What do you think? What was your favorite pitch in Royals history?