Top 5 Magic Pitches “Not Hit at All” in Professional Baseball in 22 Years of High Pitching and Low Hitting…! | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Top 5 Magic Pitches “Not Hit at All” in Professional Baseball in 22 Years of High Pitching and Low Hitting…!

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The 2022 season marked the second time in 82 years, since 1940, that five no-hitters, tied for the most in history. The perfect game by Akinori Sasaki (Lotte) and no-hit, no-run games by Joe Higashihama (Softbank), Shota Konaga (DeNA), Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Orix), and Ponce (Nippon Ham) made it the second time in history that five no-hitters have been accomplished.

Lotte pitcher Akinori Sasaki, who achieved a perfect game this season (Photo by Kyodo News)

As predicted by Kodai Senga (Softbank), the number of .300 hitters has decreased, and the Pacific League has three teams with team batting averages in the neighborhood of .203. The reason for the “pitching high, hitting low” is not only the ball that doesn’t fly, but also the significant improvement in the level of pitchers.

In addition to scientific training and form analysis, pitchers have evolved remarkably because it is now possible to measure and adjust the rotation and change of the ball based on video and data.

With an average pitch speed of 146 km/h, 4.5 km/h higher than eight years ago, NPB pitchers today have narrowed the gap with MLB pitchers considerably. The number of sharp major-class breaking pitches and fastballs has increased, which is irresistible to pitching enthusiasts. The following is a ranking of the top five pitches based on an analysis of each pitcher’s magic pitches based on data such as xPV (*1), xPV advanced (*2), and hit batting average for the year 2022.

1 xPV/100…An index that eliminates expected pitch value and factors outside the pitcher’s area of responsibility as much as possible, and is a good estimator of true ability. 0 means that the pitcher did an average job for the league.

2 xPV advanced…The deviation of xPV/100. As in the case of exam deviation, if it exceeds 70, it is excellent. Among professionals, Moinello has a deviation above 80.

5th . Keller (Hanshin) Straight (4-seam) xPV advanced 77

In fifth place is Keller’s straight. Keller, a new foreigner of Hanshin, was expected to be the closer to fill the hole left by Roberto Suarez, who moved to the majors, but he failed to live up to expectations immediately after the season opener due to a lack of adjustment.

However, he has continued to pitch dominantly since his adjustment to the second team, and his 4-seam has overwhelming accuracy. His maximum velocity is 157 km/h and his average velocity has increased to 152.2 km/h. Since his time in the majors, he has hit .134 with a quality that makes him swing under the ball with a lot of vertical change, and he has not allowed a homerun. Although his quality is slightly lower than Osuna’s, he was rated higher because of his good control of the pitch.

The Hanshin pitchers’ ability to adjust, especially their technique to improve the 4-seam, is excellent. He is eager to adapt to Japanese baseball by learning to use the split, and between his strong curve and straight, he can add a slapper like Moinello or Matsui. If he does so, we can expect to see him as a suppressor from next season onward, like Pierce Johnson and Suarez.

4th place: Jariel Rodriguez Jariel Rodriguez (Chunichi) Vertical Slider xPV advanced 78

No. 4 is Jaleel Rodriguez’s vertical slider. Jaliel Rodriguez, who has switched to a set-up man this season, overwhelms hitters with his 160-kilogram, straight slalom 4-seam and sharp vertical slider.

Rodriguez’s vertical slider is characterized by its sharp, top-spinning, “power curve”-like nature, and its high velocity, in the low 130s.

The faster the speed of the curve, the more effective it is, and Rodriguez’s vertical slider, with a power curve-like curve in the low 130s, has a .082 batting average, making it a truly magical pitch.

3rd . Hiroki Matsui (Rakuten) Slider xPV advanced 79

The third place goes to Hiroki Matsui’s slider. Hiroki Matsui has a “biennial tendency” of alternating years where he has a 3-point average and a 0-1 ratio, and this season was one of the worse, but he is still pitching absolutely solidly with a 1-point average as the season comes to a close.

All of his pitches, the 4-seam, split, and slider, are excellent, with batting averages in the low 10% range, but it is the slider that has the best xPV/100 and xPV advanced.

With an average velocity of 135.3 km/h and a bit of topspin in free fall with gyroscopic rotation, the slider’s slatter nature makes it a different quality pitch than the big slabs of his high school days, similar to Moinello’s. If he can embody a ball with this much velocity and change, he can get a lot of strikeouts and control the pitch easily, which is why his xPV/100 is 3.0 and his xPV advanced is a whopping 79.

Before desperately trying to counter that a slider with a small amount of change can be hit, it would be good to take a closer look at the game and note the greatness of the slider, which bends “sharply and moderately” in the middle of the pitch.

2nd. Roberto Osuna (Lotte) Straight (4-seam) xPV advanced 79

In second place is Roberto Osuna’s straight. In general, the straight is one of the most easily hit pitches. In modern baseball, there are fewer straights, which is not enough for old-time baseball fans, and more falling balls such as forks and sliders (although I personally still think there are still too many straights…). In such an era, a straight ball that can compete with power is very attractive.

In the Japanese baseball world in 2022, the best quality straight is probably the 4-seam of Roberto Osuna, who joined Lotte mid-season.

Thrown from an ideal form with no power, the ball has a velocity in the low 150s with a nice vertical rotation and extension, and the quality of the pitch is outstanding with a batting average of .167. The former major league save king’s ability is no joke.

1st. Moinello (Softbank) Slider xPV advanced 84

No. 1 is Moinello’s slider. With a 1.03 earned-run average and a 14.87 strikeout-to-walk ratio, this dominant pitch is so dominant that it has been described as Moinello’s “offense.

Moinello has a good straight,” “No, his curveball is good,” “No, no, no, his changeup is great. All of these are true, and all of them are good, but the best of all is his slider, which has an xPV/100 of 3.6 and an xPV advanced of 84.

With a gyroscopic rotation in the 140s and a free-fall drop in gravity, this ball, which I describe as a “slutter,” is both swinging and missing a lot. It can be used as a count ball or a breaking ball, and because it has good control, its xPV/100 and xPV advanced were overwhelming numbers, despite a .179 batting average.

Haruki Nishikawa, who had previously moved to Rakuten, had this to say around 2020: “Moinello’s curveball is noteworthy. Moinello’s curveball gets a lot of attention, but once he learned to use that little slider, it became a nuisance and was untouchable. When you watch Moinello’s “offense,” be sure to pay attention to his slider as well.

Extra Edition

Although he was not included in the rankings, Hiroto Takahashi (Chunichi), a second-year player for Chunichi and the leading candidate for the Central League Rookie of the Year, pitched dominantly in July and August with a defense ratio in the 0-point range. He throws a sharp ball from a high center of gravity form with no sense of power by monoing a small takeback called a short arm, and his split has an xPV of 18.2 and an xPV advanced of 70, a high rating.

The ball, which falls at about 139 km/h, again almost a free fall in gravity, gets a lot of strikeouts and is rated as high quality. After all, many batters would strike out if they could achieve this much velocity and amount of change. So far, I have not found a way to deal with this.

The fork of Hiroto Saiki (Hanshin), who has been pitching well after recovering from Tommy John surgery, the split of the resurgent Ren Kajiya (Hanshin), and the forks of perfect game man Akinori Sasaki (Lotte) and baseball ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Orix) are other balls comparable to the top pitches. The fork of rookie Yuki Udagawa (Orix) is also top-level in quality, though not in quantity, and has become a part of the Orix’s strong relief lineup.

Hiroshima’s closer Yoshiori Kuribayashi also has a top-class fork, and although there were concerns about a “second-year jinx” due to fatigue from his long service after his first year in the Olympics, this did not affect him. After a slightly sluggish spring, Kuribayashi has regained his form from the middle of the season and has continued to pitch dominantly this year with a 1.49 earned-run average. Because he throws his fork overthrowing the ball from above, it is difficult to generate backspin and a good drop-off.

It might be easier to understand if we say that a right-handed pitcher throws the slider of Moinello or Hiroki Matsui. This Kuribayashi, after all, has a good straight, cut ball, curveball, and everything else besides the fork.

The reality is that a good pitcher eventually has all of his pitches good, and no matter what he throws, he cannot be hit by pitches. Another important factor is that he throws his fork about 30% of his pitches. This amount of pitches means that he throws one pitch to each batter, and batters cannot erase the falling pitches from their minds. Therefore, it becomes more difficult to deal with straight pitches and other pitches.

The next best pitch is Kota Senga’s haunted fork, Koya Fujii’s four-slider, and Taisuke Yamaoka’s vertical slider, but the top-ranked pitches that are a little smaller than the big ones, around 140 kilograms, and fall in free fall due to gravity are the best in the index. The top-ranked balls that change a little less than these larger changes, and change about 140 kilograms in free fall under gravity, are the best in the index.

In any case, the top ranking balls are more often the falling sliders and forks. The data also shows that the falling ball is superior, and the current trend of pitchers increasing the number of falling balls while raising the velocity of their pitches will continue. The way to throw, grip, and give rotation to the ball is also being elucidated, and we may see more and sharper breaking balls. It is important to throw multiple combinations of such balls.

In such a situation, quality straight pitches that can compete with the power of Osuna and Keller, and speedballs like Akinori Sasaki’s are also attractive. Baseball pitching is defensive, but with the ball in their hands and in their control, they are able to increase their dominance without limit, including defensive shifting, pitch distribution, and framing. Because of the imbalance in the game in this pitcher-dominated environment, measures have been put in place in the U.S. to encourage improvements to the hitting game, such as shift bans and pitch clocks. We look forward to seeing more success from pitchers in the future, and will also keep an eye on how hitters respond.

  • Literature Niki's crotch Photo by Kyodo News

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