Pitching Ninja’s filthiest pitches: Framber Valdez’s curveball dazzles during LCS

as if Rob Friedman, aka “The Pitching Ninja.”
Fox Sports MLB analyst

We’re entering the final stretch of the 2022 MLB campaign – the World Series starts Friday on FOX! Padres-Phillies and Yankees-Astros battled it out, with excellent coverage in both the ALCS and NLCS.

Here are the foulest pitches from the League Championship Series:

Framber hammers

Framber Valdez had a fantastic season, setting a major league single-season record with 25 consecutive quality starts. Valdez continued to set records in the postseason, breaking the MLB record for most curveballs in 16 games. In ALCS Game 2. During the regular season, Valdez had the fourth best curveball in baseball in run rate and had a 45.5% strikeout rate on that pitch. So, it’s no surprise that he’s dominated the curve in the postseason.

Here are all these curveball whiffs from Game 2 against the Yankees. Take a Curveball Tour!

Wheeler’s dirty curveball to Soto

Zack Wheeler has had a great postseason so far with a 1.78 ERA while recording 25 strikeouts in his four starts. Wheeler’s fastball gets a lot of attention, as it does, because of his bat-singing velocity (typically in the low 90s, even touching 100 mph), but his curveball has also been bad this postseason. Here’s Wheeler’s curveball that got a sword from Juan Soto, a hard work by which Soto has one of the best eyes in baseball.

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This overlay shows why Soto performed poorly on this pitch. Wheeler’s 97 mph fastball was perfectly fine-tuned with what was called a curveball strike. As a hitter, the curveball looks just like that fastball, until it dives into the dirt at the last second, so you can swing at a ball that might end up hitting you on the leg.

Wheeler also demolished Soto earlier in the series, getting three untimely “walks” to first base for the record before falling behind 3-0 in the count and hitting Soto.

Wheeler’s highlights helped lead the Phillies to their first World Series appearance since 2009.

Loaisiga’s mind-boggling 100 mph dive

Jonathan Loasiga’s 100 mph sinker ran an incredible 21 inches and landed 20 inches. Just a pitch that’s impossible to beat and one of the key reasons Loasiga gets such poor contact on the sink.

Johnny’s Lasagna regularly offers grilled cheese.

Darvish’s slow curve ball

Yu Darvish is the mad scientist of Peach Grip. He throws 12 pitches or so regularly, inventing pitches on the fly. I look for nice slow curveballs, and Yu threw this nice 67 mile curve to get Bryce Harper’s strikeout.

Here’s Darvish explaining to me how to throw a slow curveball.

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Darvish had this dirty slider that broke 16 inches. This home plate view shows how hard hitters they really are!

Verlander’s unfair fastball and slider

I love doing tape overlays because it helps fans understand how hard it is to hit correctly. “Why did you swing at that?” Instead of shouting. It helps to explain exactly what the pitcher was seeing when the pitcher chased a pitch out of the zone.

This overlay of Justin Verlander’s elevated fastball and nasty slider shows why he swings out of the zone on a slider. You can see how well Verlander caves in with his 96 mph fastball, making the edges virtually indistinguishable to the opponent. You start swinging at what you think is a fastball, but because it’s slippery, you end up swinging it in the air…whiiiffff.

Honorable verses

A few years ago, Jose Alvarado “EDiablo“It’s because his plays look like black magic. Now that he’s improved his order of the fields, El Diablo has taken his game to the next level.”

The Alvarado’s 94 mph trim is pure magic. During the regular season, Alvarado had a 55.7% whiff rate on his cutter, which was the highest whiff rate of any cutter in the majors. As you can see here, it’s a completely unfair vote.

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This overlay helps show how impossible it is to beat Alvarado. His 101 mph fastball was overshadowed by his 93 mph cutter. Because of the high speed, you have a fraction of a second to detect these sounds and start swinging. It’s a recipe for a surefire strike.

Brian Abreu destroyed Josh Donaldson with this 99-mph fastball, which found a wedge and caused Donaldson to bend his knee before the big one.

Ryne Stanek hits the side with a major, also adding to his K’s streak. I love it when pots scream with emotion!

at last, Josh Hader set a new record with eight goals in a row. Here Hader is destroying his side against the Phillies. Simply top it off with overpowering stuff, a ridiculous 93 mph shift!

Bonus

Giancarlo Stanton broke the Astros’ scoreboard by pushing the ball into the outfield. I decided to have fun with it by taking that game and putting Stanton in a different situation: a shift from game-saving containers to Earth-saving interstellar strength.

Rob Friedman is an MLB pitching analyst for FOX Sports whose work has been featured on numerous Major League Baseball broadcasts. Follow him on Twitter @Pitching Ninja.


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