By MARK SIMON
Every day, we see and share highlights of pitchers with amazing stuff. There have already been two no-hitters (three if you want to count Madison Bumgarner’s). Strikeout records are falling left and right. So many pitchers and pitches seem unhittable.
But who has a pitch that has been the most unhittable in 2021?
We decided to look at the pitchers who have given up nothing – or almost nothing with a particular pitch this season. Our criteria was to look at the pitchers with the most at-bats against them who have allowed two, one, or no hits with a pitch type this season.
Fair warning: Our criteria eliminated some dominant pitchers this season. Nothing against Jacob deGrom, Corbin Burnes or Brandon Woodruff, but we set numbers in place and are sticking with them.
Joe Musgrove’s slider (2-for-35)
What’s amazing about Musgrove is that he’s put up incredible numbers without throwing a tradition fastball often. His most-used pitch is actually his slider, with that just ahead of his cutter usage.
It’s not just the slider that’s doing the job. Opponents are 2-for-21 against his curveball and 0-for-10 against his changeup too.
Michael Kopech’s 4-seamer (2-for-32)
Kopech’s return from Tommy John surgery is going alright so far, as he’s posted a 1.72 ERA in six appearances (two starts). His fastball is humming along well at 95 to 96 MPH. In his last start, Rangers hitters went 0-for-10 against it with eight strikeouts.
Yu Darvish’s slider (1-for-30)
We hope we’re right on this and maybe Darvish will let us know if we’re not.
Among his many offerings, the slider has been almost untouchable. Not only has he loaded up on outs with it, he’s throwing it for a strike 70% of the time. Watch the slow, almost hypnotic delivery on this one.
Richard Rodriguez’s 4-seamer (1-for-26)
This is the guy on the list for whom you’re going to say “Who???” Rodriguez has thrown 9 1/3 one-hit innings this season for the Pirates and he’s done it almost entirely with the heater. Rodriguez’s fastball has been tough to hit throughout his career even though it only averages 93 MPH and hitters know it’s coming. He’s thrown it nearly 90% of the time this season.
Julio Urías’s changeup (0-for-23)
Dustin May’s curveball (0-for-21)
The Dodgers have an embarrassment of pitching riches and two of their young’uns lead the way here.
When Urías first came up, the changeup was his putaway pitch and five years later, hitters still haven’t figured out how to do anything with it. He’s thrown 66 this season, resulting in 23 outs and many swings that look like this.
If you were watching Dodgers-Padres on Sunday night, you saw some 100-MPH heat from Dustin May, but you saw some pretty good slow stuff too. May throws his curveball for a strike only 51% of the time but it’s still extremely effective. On Sunday, he got eight outs and five of his 10 strikeouts with the pitch.