In the American Major League (MLB), there is a pitch that dominated the era. The type of pitch that is attracting attention this season is definitely the ‘Sweeper’. Sweeper, a type of horizontal slider, attracted great attention as the deciding ball in which Shohei Ohtani struck out Mike Trout (above LA Angels) with a miss in the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC) final. MLB currently recognizes the sweeper as a pitch and officially counts it. It is known that there are quite a few pitchers who want to learn the sweeper in the KBO League. As much as that, it is the most ‘hot’ pitch regardless of the league.스포츠토토
What we’re going to cover here is an interesting shift in pitch selection. The rate of fastballs decreased and the use of sliders increased. The fastball, that is, the fastball, has firmly maintained its position as the leader for a long time despite the emergence of various types of pitches. There was a strong perception that it was the basis of the pitching repertoire. But things have changed recently. In MLB in 2013, the rate of fast balls (four-seam fastball + two-seam fastball + sinker) was 56.9%.
However, the percentage of fast balls fell below 50% last year for the first time since 2008, when the pitch tracking system was applied to record pitches one by one. This year, this trend intensified, and the figure fell to 47.3% (as of the 4th). On the other hand, it is the slider that has noticeably changed the rate of speaking.
In 2015, the percentage of sliders in MLB was just 14.3%. This season, considering the sweeper, the slider rate rises to 22%. In less than 8 years, remarkable changes have been made. If you include the cut fastball, which is a modified pitch of the slider, the number can be further improved.
What is the reason for the sharp increase in the slider ratio? The answer is simple. This is because they are less likely to be attacked by others. As of last year, MLB’s slider hit rate was 0.212, a big difference compared to the fast ball (0.262).
Clayton Kershaw’s slider usage rate has improved significantly recently. Getty Images
Let’s take a look at the pitchers who command the MLB. Max Scherzer (New York Mets), Jacob deGrom (Texas Rangers), and Clayton Kershaw (LA Dodgers) throw high-quality fastballs, but all use a powerful slider as their main weapon. The reason why Kershaw, who has passed his heyday, still maintains excellent results, is largely due to the still powerful slider. He’s been throwing more sliders than fastballs since 2021. Ohtani, who formalized the sweeper pitch, uses 42% of the sweeper this season.
In MLB this season, there are 7 clubs with less than 45% of fast balls. The San Francisco Giants actively encourage pitchers to use the slider. As a result, 32.5% of the club’s total pitches are sliders or sweepers. Even just six years ago, it is said that the rate of fastballs reached 60% in ball counts that were unfavorable to pitchers. However, that number has fallen to 51% this year. As a hitter, in a situation where you can picture a fast ball in your head, when you see a slider that looks similar to a fastball at first glance, the bat has no choice but to turn.
Driveline Baseball’s Chris Langin, who is well-known in Korea, says, “A powerful fastball is the most efficient.” At the same time, he added a clue of ’60+ or higher’ on the ’20-80 scale’, which evaluates the talent of a prospect with a maximum of 80 and a minimum of 20 (average of 50). The problem is that there are far fewer pitchers with this level of pitch than pitchers who don’t.
Sliders are definitely in their prime right now. But this flow will also change someday. The most important thing is to look back on yourself while contemplating whether the type of pitch is right for you or whether you are vaguely following the trend.