[Song Jae-woo’s Focus MLB] ‘Sliders’ are all the rage now

In Major League Baseball (MLB), there are oldies but goodies. This season, one of the favorites is the sweeper. A type of sideways slider, the sweeper made headlines when Shohei Ohtani struck out Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels) in the final game of the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC). MLB now recognizes sweepers as a pitch and even counts them officially. In the KBO, there are quite a few pitchers who are trying to master the sweeper. It’s one of the most “hot” pitches in any league.

This is an interesting change in pitch selection. Less fastballs and more sliders. The fastball has remained the dominant pitch for a long time, even with the advent of other pitches. It was perceived as the foundation of the pitching repertoire. However, things have changed recently. In 2013, the percentage of fastballs (four-seam fastball + two-seam fastball + sinker) in MLB was 56.9%.

But last year, for the first time since 2008, when pitch tracking systems were implemented to record every pitch, the percentage of fastballs fell below 메이저놀이터 50%. This year, the trend has intensified, dropping to 47.3% (as of day 4). Conversely, sliders are the pitch that has seen the most dramatic change.

In 2015, MLB’s slider rate was just 14.3%. This season, the slider rate is up to 22% when sweepers are included. In less than eight years, there has been a remarkable transformation. The numbers are even better when you include cut fastballs, a variation of the slider.

The answer to the question of why slider rates have skyrocketed is simple. It’s because hitters are seeing it less. As of last year, MLB’s slider BABIP was 0.212 compared to fastballs (0.262).

Let’s take a look at the pitchers who dominate the MLB. Max Scherzer (New York Mets), Jacob deGrom (Texas Rangers), and Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers) all have quality fastballs, but they all rely heavily on their sliders. The reason Kershaw, who is past his prime, is still performing so well is due in large part to his still-powerful slider. He’s been throwing more sliders than fastballs since 2021. Ohtani, who formalized the sweeper as a pitch, throws it 42% of the time this season.

There are seven teams in MLB with 45% or less fastballs this season. The San Francisco Giants also actively encourage their pitchers to utilize sliders. As a result, 32.5% of their pitches are sliders or sweepers. Just six years ago, the percentage of fastballs in unfavorable pitch counts was 60%. That number has dropped to 51% this year. As a hitter, if you have a fastball in your head and you see a slider that looks like a fastball at first glance, you can”t help but go back to the plate.

“Power fastballs are the most effective,” says Chris Langin of nationally recognized DriveLine Baseball. On the 20-80 scale, which rates a prospect’s talent from a high of 80 to a low of 20 (with an average of 50), he adds the clue “60+”. The problem is that there are far fewer pitchers with that kind of stuff than there are without.

Sliders are definitely in their prime right now. But that will change at some point. The most important thing is to ask yourself if the pitch is right for you and if you’re not just jumping on a bandwagon. What could be more important than that?

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