I wanted to touch a little bit more on Jonathan Sanchez’s start yesterday. Specifically, how well his slider was working for him against Braves’ hitters. Giants’ starters have been very tough to hit in this NLDS, with Sanchez’s 11 strikeouts yesterday, the starters have struck out 31 batters in 23 innings pitched. That’s a 12.13 K/9 ratio for the staff. Out of Sanchez’s 11 punch outs, 9 of them came on his slider/curve. Sanchez’s slider is more of a ‘slurve’ and he seems to throw it two different ways. I assume that he’s changing his grip slightly, but the pitch has either a tight sharp break — like a traditional slider — or more of a ‘hump’ in the break.
A graph, and then a few more words on his breaking pitch.
This is your basic plot that shows location. It’s perspective is that from behind home plate — ie: if you were the catcher. What I’ve done is plotted all of Sanchez’s ‘slurves’ that he threw in the game. There are 28 total slurves. The pitches with black circles around them denote swings-and-misses. Pitches with “X’s” denote contact.
- Sanchez threw a total of 104 pitches in the game — 64 fastballs, 28 slurves, and 12 changeups.
- Sanchez’s slurve boasted a whiff rate (misses/swings) of 78.5%. Batters took 14 cuts against Sanchez’s slider/curve and missed the ball completely 11 times. The 3 times Braves hitters did make contact resulted in foul balls. Not a single Braves hitter put Sanchez’s slider/curve into play. That’s pretty impressive.
- Looking at the graph, we can see that the Braves just couldn’t lay off the pitch when it was down in the zone. The majority of our whiffs are down in the zone.
- The average slurve was thrown at 81.1 mph and had 5.89 inches of downward break.
- Right-handed batters saw the pitch 9 times. Left-handed batters saw the pitch 19 times. The slider’s break will naturally take the pitch down and away from lefty batters. It makes sense that Sanchez — and I assume this is a universal — would throw the slider more to lefties than righties.
Sanchez probably had some of the best control of his slurve in yesterday’s game that I’ve ever seen. It was almost reminiscent of his no-hitter against the Padres. He was bouncing it in the dirt, wrapping it around the strike zone, and generally placing the pitch where he wanted. His development with the pitch has been impressive. As a prospect, his changeup was rated as a plus-pitch and ahead of his breaking ball. Today, Sanchez will mix in the changeup on occasion, but his bread-and-butter has become his slider. There’s something beautiful about a lefty that can throw a nasty slider.