Why the Slider may be the Most Important Pitch in the Game

Baseball began with a stick and a ball; the ultimate showdown of pitcher vs batter. The goal was, and still is, to get the ball past the batter’s bat by throwing it as hard as possible. However, the game has now evolved to a point where the fastball no longer gets the job done every time. Without a good breaking ball and/or changeup a pitcher will have more lack of success.

There are several different variations of the breaking ball, but the two most common are the curveball and slider. Some pitchers have both or just one of either. Both pitches have the same purpose, but there are more situations in which the slider can be more useful.

Both sliders and curveballs are primarily used as out pitches, meaning they are thrown with 2 strikes. The curveball and slider have very similar trajectory, but the slider has a sharper break. The slider can be more affective than the curveball because it can be thrown in any count and/or situation depending on how confident the pitcher is in throwing it for a strike. Normally a pitcher feels more comfortable throwing a slider for a strike than a curveball. Take Noah Syndergaard as an example; although he has a blazing 100 mph fastball as his primary pitch, he has just as much confidence throwing his slider in any count.

If a pitcher were to throw a curveball in a count when the batter is gearing up for a fastball, the curveball has enough of a high arching movement that it is easier to identify. However, a high 80’s slider looks like a fastball until it reaches the plate, then it takes a hard nosedive causing the batter to swing and miss the ball. The curveball has a higher softer arch that causes the ball to travel at a speed about 10 mph slower than a slider. Therefore it is harder to control and locate. It is used more to be a waste pitch, meaning for example, on a 0-2 count, a curveball is thrown in the dirt or way out of the zone to catch the hitter off guard or cause the hitter to make weak contact. Although the changeup, curveball and slider can all be equally hit hard if hung up, the slider is more beneficial when thrown properly.

An inside slider, for example, is more affective than an inside curveball, as the batter has more time to open up his stance and time his bat to lift the ball out of the ballpark. Whereas the slider will sharply break to the back foot at the last second causing a swing over, as at first it is a fastball letter high that can be capitalized on. In full, a slider has the ability to be thrown in any part of the zone like a fastball, but with a little more flair and accuracy than a curveball or changeup. The slider is the most deceiving pitch in baseball, and the only way to consistently pitch well is by deceiving the batter.

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