St. Louis Cardinals ace Carlos Martinez threw the fastest pitch in the 2017 All-Star Game. That pitch, though it was not quite the 102 MPH I hoped for, led to more than $5,000 in donations to Martinez’s charity, the Tsunami Waves Foundation. Oh, and instead of taking a much-deserved break after a success All-Star Game, Martinez flew to the Dominican Republic to hand-deliver backpacks, school supplies, and #18 jerseys. No, the ASG’s fastest pitch was not a sinker because a 101.3 MPH sinker would defy the laws of physics. However, the pitch mentioned in this post’s title was equally impressive and downright unhittable.
Remember, sinkers are not typically used as swing-and-miss pitches (think Mike Leake and his goal of inducing of ground balls). Even though Martinez’s is considerably more electric than Leake’s, the pitch still leads to whiffs only 7.16% of the time — the lowest rate of his four main pitches. Yet, even one of the league’s very best hitters in Correa (159 wRC+) is vulnerable to a sinker-induced strikeout when facing a pitcher who successfully changes speeds and consistently locates his pitches at the bottom, or below, the hitting zone.
As you may recall from my first post, Martinez isn’t afraid to throw the same pitch back-to-back. Both the slider-slider and changeup-changeup combinations lead to considerable success for the 25-year-old righty. Yet, as you can see in the chart above, Martinez’s repertoire is perfect for changing speeds. In recording the strikeout, Martinez threw six pitches to Correa. Each subsequent pitch possessed a velocity difference of at least 7 MPH from the pitch prior.
All while keeping the ball down
I fully understand (and respect) that some may be leery of All-Star Game hitting approaches. It is generally frowned upon to take walks in a high-profile exhibition game (only five walks were issued this year). That being said, Martinez’s strikeout sinker clocked in at an impressive 96.16 MPH (the league average sinker clocks in at 92.4 MPH). It possessed 11.64 inches of horizontal movement. For perspective, so far in 2017, Martinez’s sinker has averaged 9.50 inches of horizontal movement. Two extra inches of horizontal movement, tracked by PitchF/x (and not a juiced radar gun), indicates a fired-up Martinez. In a regular-season or playoff game, would Correa have laid off the pitch (that ultimately landed in the dirt)? Maybe so, but his off-balance footwork, along with his bottom hand coming off the bat, represents a fooled hitter more than a courtesy exhibition swing.
And to confirm the All-Star Game sinker wasn’t a fluke, the pitch was still working in yesterday’s start, just ask Pittsburgh Pirates pinch hitter Phil Gosselin:
How about this for pitch sequencing and tunneling? I cannot imagine coming off the bench and being thrown into facing these two pitches, let alone back-to-back.