MLB pitchers are turning to sliders more than ever
Fastballs are being thrown less than half the time for the first time in recorded MLB history, replaced mostly by sliders.
Why it matters: The increasing prevalence of sliders has contributed to the league-wide batting average decrease. This year's mark, .242, is the lowest since 1967.
By the numbers: While fastball usage has declined from 57.7% to 48.8% during the Statcast era (2015-present), slider usage has increased from 14.7% to 22.2%.
- Batters aren't thrilled with that role reversal: Entering Monday, they were hitting just .209 against sliders this season.
- That's the lowest mark of any of the five pitches thrown at least 2% of the time (fastball, slider, curve, changeup, cutter).
Between the lines: Sliders are essentially faster curveballs with less movement (or slower cutters with more movement). When the pitch first came to prominence in the 1910s, it was referred to as a "nickel curve."
- While curveballs break vertically and are thrown with a downward yank, sliders "slide" laterally and are thrown with a special grip and finger pressure.
- The risk: If a slider doesn't break as much as a pitcher hopes, it "hangs" in the strike zone, allowing hitters to tee off on a pitch with fairly straight trajectory and sub-fastball velocity.
What they're saying: "It's not just the volume of sliders that's on the rise — it's the quality," writes SI's Tom Verducci. "Thanks to high-tech pitching labs and coaches skilled in biomechanics ... the average slider spins 14% faster today than it did in 2015."
- "Moreover, in that same time pitchers have added five inches to their extension on sliders — the point where they release the pitch."
- "More extension means less time for a hitter to react and more finish on the break of the pitch."
The bottom line: Sliders are having a moment. That's bad news for hitters.